Chapter 1: Chapter One
The sun was blindingly bright at noon, but it was such a relief to be away from the gray wet London weather that Rose wasn’t bothered to have left her sunglasses back in the hotel room.
“We can still go back,” John told her. “We don’t have to catch the bus for a while. Don’t want my precious girl uncomfortable without her sunglasses.”
“We’re cuttin’ it too close,” Rose told him, taking his hand. “It’s later than you think, Doctor I Don’t Need a Watch.”
“Oi, excellent time sense, me!”
Rose laughed, even as a niggling sense in the back of her mind told her, take him back to the room. Stop arguin’ about it and take him back to the room! S’not too late yet, just turn around!
John Foreman, who had doctorates in astronomy and physics, who loved to travel with the love of his life, Rose Tyler, chuckled fondly. His own crystal blue eyes were crinkled happily behind his own sunglasses, while he was looking squarely at Rose. “And if we’re late, we’re late. That’s what travellin’ is all about. Gettin’ lost, usin’ the wrong verbs, gettin’ overcharged…..”
Rose had heard this speech so often she could recite it herself. She opened her mouth to tell him that even as her mind insistently told her, Take him back to the room, now, go back now, NOW…
In her imagination she saw herself rolling her eyes, giving in, turning back towards the revolving door with John, leading him in, taking him upstairs and kissing him so passionately he forgot all about the tour they had scheduled. In this vision, they never left the hotel room. All was well and they were safe. He gave her the ring that was hidden in his pocket.
The reality was much different.
The bright sun that reflected off the car would blind her. The exhausted driver would doze off for a few seconds and lose control of his vehicle.
John would see this as it happened and he would block her with his body, pushing Rose away. She would fall hard on the sidewalk. Her knees would be scraped up and her hands cut, but she wouldn’t notice it until much later, when the A & E nurse tried to help her.
It didn’t matter that she was hurt. That was nothing, compared to the sight before her. Now the sun was too bright, washing out all the color except for John. She could see him very clearly. It was all over in a heartbeat. Rose began to shriek.
Rose Tyler was awakened by her screams in her own bed. She sat up, shaking, chest heaving, blinded by the sunlight again, but this time it was late morning sun streaming in through a window. She vaguely remembered falling into this new, strange bed, exhausted, early in the morning. She’d apparently forgotten to draw the blinds.
Rose blinked, as she slowly got her wits about her. She’d stopped screaming almost as soon as she awakened herself, but her heart raced and cortisol flooded her system. Her hands trembled, simply refusing to be still. Groping for her mobile on the nightstand, she briefly registered that it was half ten on eleventh June. She already knew the date, she didn’t need a confirmation.
Two years exactly. Two years since an exhausted, inattentive driver lost control of his car and taken the life of Dr. John Christopher Foreman in front of a luxury hotel in Croatia.
Rose frantically touched the mobile screen, and opened the voicemail app. She looked in the archives and immediately found what she wanted, pressing play, the volume turned up loud.
Rose Tyler, I just have three more stops to make before I get home, then we’re gonna do some proper pre-holiday celebratin’. Ring me if you think of anything we need while I’m still out. I’m assumin’ the airport won’t decide I’m half daft if I take a whole bunch of bananas on the flight. Eh, it’s a short flight. Can get by with just a couple, me. At any rate, I’m comin’ home.
She chuckled, even as tears streamed down her cheeks. She’d clung to that voicemail, the last remnants of his northern accent, along with his jumpers. He’d had four: Black, purple, burgundy and green, all the same v-neck style. He wore them, dark jeans, and a black jacket every day. His students in physics at Deffrey Vale took bets on which jumper it would be that day, she recalled. Courtney Woods, one of his best students, had told her that at the memorial service. She’d tried sleeping in them after she returned to their flat alone, but, eventually, his scent faded. She still had his voice, though, and right in that moment, in that tiny rented chalet, it was grounding her.
She played it again, just the part in which he’d said “Rose Tyler.” It’d taken him a while to confess his love, but her best friend Shareen (a hopeless romantic) had told her early on, “That’s the way he says I love you. It’s like his as you wish.” As time passed in their relationship, Rose realized Shareen had been right.
Two years gone. He’d now been gone for as long as they’d been together. Her parents hadn’t been keen on the idea of John at first. He had been forty when they met, she’d been twenty-three. He had told her wild tales of travel that had wooed her away from her boring life.
To her parents’ credit, they had reason to worry. When Rose was sixteen, she’d left school early. Like a true prodigal daughter, she’d left her rich parents and ran off with a street musician who took her credit cards and left her all alone. She’d worked her arse off to pay the debt Jimmy Stone had dumped on her. Rose had refused financial help from her parents, because she felt she deserved to earn it all back herself. Days had turned to months, then years, and Rose first found herself in a dead end job in a shop. Eventually, her dad had come to her with an offer to work at his health drink company, Vitex. Her schedule would be flexible and she could get her A Levels, and go beyond that if she wanted. She did, but maths were a stumbling block and she found a tutor.
The tutor had been John Foreman. It’d taken a full year for them to admit their love for each other.
Her mother had been livid when she took off with John on that first adventure to Wales for a weekend to wander the countryside. Eventually, Jackie came to accept him, and even love him.
He’d promised Rose the world, and he’d done his best to give it to her. They’d spent summer holidays in the western United States, Christmas in Greece, a short spring holiday in Paris. They’d had so many plans.
Rose lay back on the pillow, sighing shakily. The clock now read 10:35. She was letting the day get away from her, and she had work to do. She hadn’t come to this little seaside town for a holiday. She suspected that Dad hoped she’d finish her work quickly and decide to stay a bit. That was why he’d rented her a chalet on the river rather than a room in the local hotel. Rose had never been on holiday alone. She wasn’t sure if she could stand the quiet. At least in London, it was noisy and bustling and distracting. Here, in Broadchurch, there was nothing but the sound of the ocean. She wiped her eyes, took a steadying breath, and thought, Best get on with it, then.
The voice in her head sounded like John’s.
Rose sat up again, and this time she threw the quilt off of her and got out of bed. She cast a bleary eye around the unfamiliar room. It was a tiny bedroom, with one small closet and dresser. Her suitcase sat open on a chair. She’d gotten in so late the night before she hadn’t had time to put clothes in the dresser. She shuffled out of the room, the adrenaline rush from her nightmare fading into a vague queasiness.
Her chalet was small, with two bedrooms, a lounge, bathroom and a kitchen decorated in what Rose assumed was supposed to be a cheery nautical motif. There was a white desk and chair pushed up against a wall adjacent to the small loveseat. Rose hadn’t taken time to organize her clothes but she had spent time, into the wee hours of the morning, setting up her workspace.
As if on cue, her mobile buzzed with a text. It was from her father. Just checking in. Are you settled in the chalet?
Rose picked her phone up, sighing. Yes. Just got up. She immediately wished she hadn’t just hit “send” on that admission.
How are you today? Such a simple question, yet so complicated. She could imagine the follow up question, and her mother standing over his shoulder to see her answers. When did you get to bed? Why did you sleep so late? Did you have nightmares? Did you bring the antidepressants, just in case? Do you need us to come there?
So Rose answered, Got my workspace set up and lost track of time last night. Made up for it this morning. Chalet’s nice. They sure doubled down on the nautical theme, though. She hoped that would put them at ease.
Broadchurch seemed like a nice little town. Once you find Moira, maybe you could make it a holiday, Pete responded. Rose rolled her eyes. She had no idea what she was going to do next. Maybe a holiday by the sea would be nice. Or the incessant sounds of the waves would drive her barmy.
Or she’d miss having John’s hand in hers as she explored the town.
She swallowed past the lump in her throat, glad that Pete couldn’t see.
Donna texted. Wanted to know if it was okay to get in touch.
That made Rose smile. Of course she can. She never has to ask. I'll text her. Or call. Donna Noble had been John’s cousin. She’d also been his best mate and honorary sister. She felt slightly ashamed for not thinking of it before then. She wasn’t the only one who’d lost John.
Jack called, too. Jack Harkness, their other best mate. He and his partner Ianto ran a restaurant in Soho. All of them felt John’s loss keenly.
Do you want an update when I have it? I’ll upload my notes to you every couple of days. Hopefully it won’t take long. Rose hoped the change of topic would assuage her guilt over not not calling Jack for a while. Then we’ll see about that holiday.
Sounds good. Mickey says hello.
Rose rolled her eyes.
Mum wanted me to pass that along, Pete added.
Well...hi back. Jackie had hoped for ages that maybe, after Rose healed she’d take up where she left off with Mickey. Starvin, I’ll let you go so I can get some food and start this investigation.
It was a lie, food was the farthest thing from her mind, but it sounded good.
She finally signed off with Pete, promising a first report by day’s end. She pulled out the desk chair and slumped into it, rubbing her eyes. Imagine how much more exhausting that would have been if we’d actually talked.
Rose groaned and picked up her reading glasses. The act of putting the square black frames on seemed to center her and she began to sort through the information she had accumulated.
Rose no longer worked for Vitex, having quit there just before John‘s accident. Sensing that she was at loose ends a couple of months after the funeral, her father had come to her with an interesting proposition. He’d acquired a company from a friend of his, even though Jackie had thought it was a daft idea. “How a bloke running a health drink business ends up runnin’ a detective agency, I’ll never know,” Jackie scoffed. But even she had to admit Pete’s direction had made the business successful in a short time. He’d hired on some good investigators, and then offered Rose the opportunity to learn from them. She saw the value in being able to help others so she took him up on it. The possibility of excitement and adventure lured her as well. The only thing missing was John by her side.
Detective work had turned out to be a little less than thrilling, however. There was a lot of computer work and research and tedium, but her clients’ happiness was gratifying. She still felt as though she was missing something in her life. Until she found it, being a detective was a good enough distraction.
This was her second missing persons case. The first had been easy enough, and it had resulted in a trip to Monaco to track down a missing groom who’d taken off with the wedding gift money. Most of the money was gone by the time she’d reunited the bride with the runaway groom. She’d received a nice bonus from the father of the now divorced bride. That had been very satisfying, and now she and the bride had become friends.
Rose had an uneasy feeling about this new case. It didn’t seem to be destined to have an upbeat ending. She hoped her prediction was wrong, but a sense of dread filled her as she looked at the picture of her missing person.
Moira Jane Burton, age 27. Bleached blonde hair, blue eyes shadowed by dark circles. Too thin and pale, as if she’d looked into her own future and had been scared by what she’d seen. Her father was a friend of Pete’s. They travelled in the same social circles. Having seen too many girls going down the same path on the estates, Jackie had warned Moira’s mother to keep an eye on her. Patricia Burton had taken it as an affront to her parenting, and cut Jackie off. Jackie told Rose later that the rift continued because Patsy had been embarrassed that Jackie had been right. Moira has been in and out of rehab for the past four years. Rose was familiar with Moira but their paths really had never crossed, even in Rose’s Jimmy Stone days.
Marshall Burton had come to Pete, needing the help of Torchwood Investigations when Moira had gone missing. She’d always kept in touch, even at her worst, and Marshall feared that she’d encountered danger when she dropped completely out of sight.
Rose was able to track her from her London flat, a barely habitable room in a dilapidated building not far from where Jack and Ianto had their restaurant.
Moira had apparently decided that London was bad for her, and she hadn’t been wrong. Clean and sober, she’d packed up and moved away, not even telling her parents. She wanted to prove herself on her own, and she didn’t want interference. She’d called twice, once to tell them she was safe, and then again to tell them she had a job. That was the last they’d heard of her.
She’d borrowed a phone to make the calls, and that phone had been traced to a woman named Jeannine Brewer, from Liverpool. She had confirmed Moira had gotten a job in the Cavern Club of all places, serving drinks to Beatles enthusiasts from across the globe.
At first, it had gone well. “For the first week, she was havin’ fun, the customers were likin’ her. I really thought we had someone who was gonna stick around,” Jeannine had told her. They’d become fast friends. “We became tattoo buddies. Never thought I’d get one, but here I am with this damn little green apple tattoo on my ankle. For the Beatles, y’ know. Moira was a little more serious about it.”
Moira had gotten a tattoo of a lily on her shoulder. “She didn’t have any problems tellin’ me about the drugs and alcohol. I knew her for like, two days and she told me about that and her friend Lily. Lily died one day outta rehab. It scared Moira shitless,” Jeannine had confided. “Wish it’d scared her a little more. The weekend after the tattoos she came in drunk. Day after that, she dumped a pint on a bloke from Wisconsin and acted like a bitch to everybody who crossed her path. Includin’ me. Then Shaun...he’s the manager...fired her. And that’s the last I heard from her directly. She said once that she was good at cuttin’ people outta her life. She did it with her parents. And I guess me too. She has kind of a..all or nothin’ personality about her. I really liked her.”
“Did you hear anymore about her? Did she stay in Liverpool?” Rose had prompted.
“I heard that she maybe got another job at the Buoy, down by the docks.”
Rose left the Cavern with as many questions as she’d had going in. But the news about the Lily tattoo….now that was intriguing.
The manager at the Buoy had provided her with a bit more information. She’d met a man named Mike, who frequented the Buoy. But he didn’t know the guy’s last name. Maybe he worked at the docks, but he wasn’t sure.
Then the manager had told her, “She left in the middle of her shift two weeks ago and don’t come back. There was a bunch of shit left in her locker. Want it? I need to get rid of it.”
The contents of her locker had been shoved into a Tesco bag, which the manager had unceremoniously dumped on the bar. “Sure woulda been nice if she’da give me a heads up,” the manager had groused. Rose had fought the urge to roll her eyes then, but alone in the chalet in Broadchurch she wasn’t inhibited, thinking, Of course, because most people give their managers warning because they’re about to go missing.
The bag was among the objects on Rose’s desk, and she dumped it out on top of Moira’s picture. Moira had stuffed her pay stub in her locker, along with a hot pink hoodie. Before leaving Liverpool, Rose had discovered that the missing waitress had cashed her entire paycheck, and emptied her bank account of $1500 on top of that. Apparently she’d needed money quickly, and Rose wondered if it had to do with the remaining object in the bag. It was a train schedule, with Broadchurch circled heavily with a permanent marker.
Missing people don’t ever leave blatant clues, Adam, the detective who’d trained her had preached.
Rose thought Moira might have done such a thing. Maybe this is a message. ‘If something happens to me, this is where I went.’ Adam probably would have laughed at her for the suggestion. But, it felt right.
She looked at the clock. It was going on eleven. She’d really let the morning get away from her. Sighing, she put down the train schedule. After a shower, she intended to go to the train station, and see if anyone there remembered Moira.
She was interrupted by her mobile ringing. Looking at the screen, she groaned. Mum calling. Guess she decided it wasn’t enough for me to talk to Dad.
Making the decision to let the phone go to voicemail, Rose turned to leave the lounge again. The phone began to ring again, and she wasn’t surprised to see that Mum hadn’t given up. This time she picked it up. “Hello, Mum?”
“‘Bout damn time you answered!”
Rose winced. “Again, hello,” she said, not bothering to hide her annoyance.
“Oh, don’t again, hello me. I’m concerned, especially when you don’t answer the mobile! You’re too far away, and you’re alone!’
Once her mother finished updating Rose on her own circumstances, she spoke. “I’m working, Mum. Very busy.”
“Your dad said you’d just gotten up.”
“Was up late settin’ up my work space. And I told Dad that. Look, I appreciate your concern, Mum. I do. But I’m fine. I’m ready to find Moira and give her family some good news.”
Her mother’s voice lowered. “Do you really think you will?”
“I hope I do. I’m not giving up.”
After a brief silence, Jackie spoke again. “I do, too. Couldn’t imagine it if you…” Rose heard her sigh shakily. “It’s bad enough we came so close to losing you two years ago….”
“Mum,” Rose sighed, her throat tightening. “I gotta get to work. Time’s tickin’.” It was no coincidence she’d used one of John’s favorite phrases.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you. How are you? Did you have any nightmares? They get worse when you’re stressed…”
“I gotta get to work. I’m fine, and I slept well. Just got to bed late, s’all. I’ll be in touch. ‘Bye, Mum….”
Jackie interjected, “Mickey says hello.”
“I’ll be in touch with him, too. He really helped me, trackin’ down that bank information for me. So, I’ll talk to you later…”
“Maybe he could come to Broadchurch and keep you company,” Jackie said in a rush.
Rose pressed her lips together, trying valiantly not to bellow at her mother. “Mum, I need the time alone. So, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t. Gotta go, really.”
“Well, it’s just an idea. You never liked to travel alone….”
He’s not John. If i’m not travelin’ with John, I’m travelin’ alone.
What she actually said was, “‘Bye, Mum. Love you. Talk to you soon.” She cut the call short and set down the phone a bit more forcefully than usual. As she did, the screen lit up again, and she groaned. She just will not leave it alone. I am not dating Mickey, we tried that and it didn’t work, and he likes Martha now anyway, so why doesn’t she just get a clue…. Rose’s angry mental tirade was interrupted when she actually read the text.
It was from Jeannine Brewer. She had sent a grainy photo taken in low light. Debated over whether this would help or not, but a friend who works at the Buoy had a pic taken of Moira about a month ago. It’s not very good, but I think the bloke is Mike. I found out his last name was Collins. Hope it helps.
Moira smiled in the picture, her hair cascading around her shoulders. Rose immediately noticed that her hair was platinum blonde now, but the last five inches or so had been dyed a bright pink. She held a cocktail in her hand, which did not bode well for her. The man next to her was in motion. His face was blurry, and she couldn’t make out any features, other than that he appeared be wearing a knitted beanie. No hair was visible, and Rose wasn’t sure if he was bald or if the beanie was covering up short hair. It didn’t show much, but it was at least a more recent picture of Moira. Upon closer inspection, Rose could see the lily tattoo on her forearm.
She typed, It actually does help. Thank you.
Jeannine responded, No prob. If I find out anything else I’ll send it 2 U. I hope U find her. Miss her.
Rose nodded at her phone screen. “I intend to find her, Jeannine,” she murmured. This time, after typing back another quick thank you , she put down the phone and headed to the shower, determined to get this day started.
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
Alec sees Daisy off on her summer trip, we find out what has been going on with Ellie since the Winterman case, and the mystery surrounding Moira’s disappearance deepens.
Now we find out what Alec, Ellie and Daisy have been up to. Mild spoilers for series 3 of Broadchurch. (I don’t get into the mystery of series 3, but if you haven’t seen it you may want to know that Daisy is living with Hardy after being a victim of bullying in Sandbrook.)
Alec Hardy glanced at the clock as he looped the end of his blue tie through the knot. Half-ten, and he couldn’t hear his daughter shuffling around the kitchen, meaning that she was likely still in bed. “Ugh,” he muttered. It would be miserable trying to get her moving, particularly this morning.
He left his room, and as expected, Daisy was nowhere to be seen. Her train ticket was set on the table, just as it had been left the night before. He sighed.
Daisy’s bedroom door was closed, so he knocked gently, then a little more forcefully when the first knocks were ignored. “Oi, Dad, m’ on the way,” Daisy barked, yanking the door open, annoyed.
“Well, it’s half ten already. We have to get to the station. Leavin’ in fifteen,” Hardy informed her.
“I haven’t finished packin’,” she argued back.
“You’ve had a full week, and you’re tellin’ me you’re not done yet? Then you can leave what you’ve not packed!’ He really did not want to fight with his daughter on this day, not when she was about to board a train for a month long trip to Sandbrook. Instead of softening his stance he growled, “Get movin, Daisy!”
She slammed the door in his face, making him immediately regret his tone. Not wanting one of their last interactions for a month to be full of anger, he took a deep, calming breath, and knocked again, this time gently. “Daiz, darlin’, I didnt mean to yell….” He was running his hand through his hair nervously when the door opened, and he was greeted by Daisy’s tearstained face. “Ah, darlin’,” he murmured, pulling her into an embrace. She came to him willingly. “M’sorry I yelled.”
“M’sorry I’m not ready and I’m gonna make us late.”
“We’ll be okay,” he told her, tipping her chin up so they were looking at each other. “I can get us there fast, even if it means speedin’. I’m the DI, after all.” He raised his eyebrow, smirking. She chuckled, which was what he’d hoped for.
“You would never,” Daisy laughed.
Hardy shrugged noncommittally. “Can I help ya?”
Daisy gave an identical shrug and pulled away to go back into her room. “If you want.”
Alec followed her into her room and sat down on the bed as Daisy halfheartedly threw some t shirts into a rucksack. “I know you’re not particularly lookin’ forward to this trip, but your mum is. And remember, love, after this trip, you get to decide how you spend your summer.”
“I know, Dad. I keep tellin’ myself that. But a month? S’gonna feel like forever.”
“Your mum has promised that those boys who bothered you before...they won’t be an issue. She knows I wouldn’t approve this long of a trip if she couldn’t manage it.”
Daisy sighed, the memory of the pictures she’d taken of herself, and the choices that she’d made with them, still very fresh and hurtful in her mind. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” she mumbled.
“You just let me know if there’s a problem, darlin’. We’ll handle it.”
Daisy’s eyes were downcast, but she nodded. “I believe you can take care of it.”
“I don’t mind intimidatin’ little shits if I have to.”
She grinned. “I know that.”
Hardy watched as she packed a few more items, moving slightly quicker than when he’d first joined her. “Month’ll fly by, you’ll see.”
Daisy paused to hold up her phone. “I put a countdown app on my phone. 30 days, 23 hours, 57 minutes. I’ll put it on yours if you want.” He hesitated all of thirty seconds before he handed his phone over to Daisy. While she went to work, she commented, “Dave’s been back around again.”
Hardy looked up at Daisy, trying to hide his shock. Tess had had a short-lived relationship with the man who’d ruined their marriage, but during the time he’d returned to Sandbrook, Dave had been nowhere to be seen. He’d heard rumors that the ex-detective had relocated to London.
“I honestly don’t know why she dated him. He’s like...boring. Like he doesn’t even register. Unless he’s makin’ a lame attempt to relate to me. Most of the time it’s like I’m not even there and that’s okay. She dated him too soon after you left that first time.” Daisy said, giving him a shrewd look.
Once again, Hardy was struck by how adult his daughter seemed in that moment. He wanted to ask what she knew, if she’d figured it out or heard the rumors. Tess had been adamant that Daisy not know about Dave’s part in ending their marriage. I’ll do no such thing. I won’t lie to her if she asks, he’d told his ex-wife.
I’ll tell her the truth about you, Alec. I’ll tell her you weren’t sleeping around. She doesn’t need to know that I was. What if your heart gives out again, Alec? I can’t have her hating me if I’m the only healthy parent she has. Alec had been outraged. His heart had been fine since the pacemaker and AED implanted in his chest had given his heart a chance to rest and heal. But in the end, for Daisy’s sake, he’d agreed to keeping Tess’ affair secret. He often wondered what Daisy knew anyway. She seemed to understand much more than she’d been told.
Daisy had chosen to live with him after the boys began to harass her in Sandbrook, and her mother had reluctantly allowed it because Alec pointed out that she’d likely lose Daisy permanently if she forced her to stay. Tess had been scared enough to agree with Alec, as long as the month in the summer belonged to her.
Isn’t it lovely to be the parent in favor again? Just like when Daisy was little and you did no wrong. He’d come to the conclusion that Tess was never going to change.
Daisy was still eyeing him warily. He finally answered, “Dave was always a bit of an opportunist.”
“Here’s your phone, Dad. See, we’re all synced up.”
She handed his mobile back and he smiled as he watched the seconds tick away on the countdown clock.
“We’ve also 162 days left ‘till Christmas if you wanna get your shopping started.”
That struck Alec as funny and he stood up, laughing. He folded Daisy into another embrace.
“I love ya, darlin.’”
“I love you, Dad.”
It was a rush to get to the train station after that, and Hardy was glad to have a working pacemaker since he and Daisy had to jog from the car park to her platform. He navigated quickly through the crowd. All along the way he could feel Daisy’s eyes on him, ever watchful. He turned back to her and boasted, “Not even winded!”
“Dad!” Daisy called out, alarmed, as her dad plowed into a petite blonde woman going the other way, knocking her backwards. She dropped her purse and the papers in her hand.
Hardy knelt down to help the woman up. She looked annoyed, and rightfully so. For once he didn’t need a prod from Miller to apologize. “Excuse me, m’sorry!” He picked up the two papers, which turned out to be two five-by-seven photographs. He handed them back to her sheepishly.
“It’s okay….I’m fine, are you?” She smiled up at him, her annoyance apparently forgotten. His heart stuttered a bit at the sudden attention, an action that had absolutely nothing to do with his medical condition. He felt his face reddening.
“Yeah. Sorry,” he muttered awkwardly and ushered Daisy around the woman to hurry away.
The Hardys made it to the platform with minutes to spare. Before he turned to say his goodbyes to his daughter he caught sight of the blonde he’d just run down, at a ticket window, talking to the attendant. She was showing him the pictures. Hardy’s interest was piqued, not because she was attractive (although she was) but because of the way she seemed to be interrogating the attendant.
“Dad! Train’s almost here,” Daisy interrupted his musings. She appeared annoyed, and he immediately felt horrible. Here he was, ignoring her in the last few minutes she had to spend with him.
“Sorry, darlin’. Just wonderin’ why that woman’s questioning ticket agents.”
“Maybe she’s lookin’ for a friend or somethin’. You’ve gone native, Dad, thinkin’ every unfamiliar face is some nefarious outsider. She’s pretty, though. Maybe you could ask her out since you deleted your Tinder profile.”
Alec rolled his eyes, ignoring her comment. “Nefarious? Good job with the big words there,” he smirked. She cheekily stuck her tongue out at him. He marveled that he could have this kind of relationship with her again, after so many years apart. He imitated her face, causing them both to laugh as they heard the approach of Daisy’s train.
Daisy looked back at the train, then at her dad. The good humor of just a moment before was replaced with sadness. “Guess this is it..” She consulted her phone. “Thirty days, twenty two hours….”
“Thirty minutes,” he finished.
“I’m not gonna cry,” she warned him.
“Nor am I. Call me when you get to Sandbrook.”
As she hugged him goodbye, clinging tightly, then let go to get on the train, he noticed some moisture leaking out of the corners of her eyes.
He had a similar problem with his own eyes, rubbing them as he walked back through the crowd, decidedly more slowly. He bumped into someone again, but it was a glancing blow and he didn’t realize he’d managed to bump into the same woman as before. He was too distracted by Daisy’s departure to notice.
The CID floor was busy, and there was some rumbling about why DI Shitface got to come in late while several of them had been there since early morning, working on a series of break-ins, at Hardy’s behest.
“He’s off droppin’ his daughter at the train station, which, I think, is a perfectly legitimate excuse. He’ll be in as soon as he can, “ DS Ellie Miller lambasted the younger detective who had had the bad luck to grouse in front of her. “How about you stop wastin’ your time bitchin’’ and actually get some work done?” The detective looked as if he wanted to debate the point, but one look at her eyes intimidated him enough to step away.
It wouldn’t intimidate anyone enough to make yet another rumor up about the pair of them. At one point in the late spring, after the Winterman case had finally been put to rest, he had taken her up on her offer for a pint. One had turned to two and then other drinks had been consumed, so much so that they had to walk to his house halfway up the hill. Daisy had been at Chloe Latimer’s, so the house was empty and they’d both stumbled in. She’d snogged him, he’d snogged her back...until they’d both burst out laughing. It had effectively cooled the embers for both of them, and they’d fallen asleep on the couch. Upon waking, they decided two things: first, they’d always stop at two pints. And secondly: they were better off as best mates.
They worked together, and occasionally helped each other out with their kids. Admittedly, Ellie benefited more from this since it seemed more apparent that her father was becoming unreliable as a childcare provider and a role model. Hardy definitely filled the void for Fred. He was there to listen to her bitch about Tom and his therapy, and Ellie was there when Daisy was being an impossible teenaged girl. Ellie hoped that eventually Alec might find someone, and he’d hoped the same for her, but both of them had more or less sworn off dating anyone, at least for now.
Didn’t keep the detectives from nattering away like gossips over the back fence, though. Ellie knew that Katie Harford knew the score, but mostly it was because Harford couldn’t imagine Hardy having any sort of relationship with anyone, female or male.
A young PC scurried up to Miller hesitantly, looking somewhat relieved when Ellie offered her a smile instead of a glare. She handed a notice off to Ellie, smiling back awkwardly, then making her escape.
Ellie scanned the notice. Her heart gave a bit of a jolt at the subject matter. Good, she thought. About damn time. She was distracted by Hardy striding into the room. He walked purposefully, as always, cutting an imposing figure. But she could see the sadness in his eyes.
A detective cut in front of him, wanting his attention. It was Phil Jonas, a new DC, hired just two weeks ago. He was eager to show off his knowledge and impress Hardy. His eagerness annoyed the DI to no end. And he could never remember Jonas’ name, to boot.
“What?” Hardy barked. Ellie thought Jonas should count himself lucky that it was all Hardy said.
Jonas launched into a report of all he’d found out about the robberies in town, which earned him an “I already knew that. Find me something I don’t know. Have you pulled the cctv footage? Did you get the camera in the alley and from the street? Did somebody transcribe what the witness to the news agents’ robbery saw?”
The rapid fire questioning boggled the minds of most people, and Jonas was left slack-jawed. Ellie watched as he gathered himself and answered, “I’ll need to check my notes.” He’d learned quickly that the answer no would not be acceptable.
“Do that,” Hardy ordered. He glared at Jonas until the new recruit scurried off, grumbling under his breath. “Miller!”
Ellie rolled her eyes. “I’m about two feet away, no need to bellow,” she groused as she joined him. “You’re gonna give the kid a complex.”
“He’s a bit of a twit,” Hardy countered. He glanced down at the notice Ellie still held. “What’s that?”
She handed it to him as he fished his glasses out of his pocket. “Good news of sorts.”
He scanned the paper. “So they’re finally tearin’ the eyesore down, are they.”
“Yeah,” Ellie said, her eyes downcast. “Wonder if they’ll let me set a match to the shack instead. The fire department could use the practice. And maybe it’d erase what was done there.” Hardy caught her eye and gave her an understanding nod.
“Do you wanna go watch?” Hardy asked.
“Nope,” Ellie said breezily. “Hope it rolls down the cliff though. How are you?”
Hardy looked genuinely confused by the question. “Fine, I guess…”
“I mean, since Daisy’s….”
“She’s safely on the train. That’s my only concern right now.” Jonas was heading their direction again. “Think Johnson found…”
“I pulled the CCTV footage!” Jonas announced this with the air of a magician who’d just pulled off a major illusion. Ellie fought the urge to smirk.
Hardy sighed, following Jonas back to his desk. The workday had begun in earnest.
An hour later, they determined that the footage didn’t show anything other than a woman with long hair walking out of a bar near the newsagents. As she passed under the streetlight, they saw her take a left and walk towards the high street. “Think maybe she noticed somethin’?” Jonas asked, eager to have something to go on.
Ellie rewound the footage a bit. The blond walked with her head down and her arms wrapped around herself defensively. She felt a bit sad for the unknown woman. As she passed under the streetlight they noticed that her hair was darker at the ends than the roots, which was unusual. “Maybe, If we happen to see her. I don’t know who she is,” Ellie pointed out. Hardy removed his glasses, rubbing his eyes tiredly. She glanced up at him. “Believe it or not, I don’t know everybody in town.”
Hardy gave an amused snort, which showed, by his standards, that he found Ellie’s comment just short of hilarious. “Somethin’ to keep in the back of our minds, I suppose,” he allowed. “Keep lookin’.”
With that he walked away. Ellie checked her watch and followed him. Concerned at the way his shoulders slumped, and knowing that without Daisy in the house, he wouldn’t eat well, she caught up to him, announcing, “We’re grabbin’ some lunch. You need it. I know you’ll skip dinner.”
“You’re the meal skipper, not me. You go out and get somethin’.”
“Nope, you’re comin’, and not only that, we’re goin’ someplace with actual plates.”
Hardy gave her a pained look, as if she’d suggested pulling out his fingernails one by one. Ellie merely raised her eyebrow.
“Let’s just go to that food truck by the newsagents,” he suggested.
“We’re not working through lunch. Real plates. We could both do with a bit of a cheer-up. How about Eloise’s?”
“You hate that place.”
“Just the risotto. I can order somethin’ else. And it hasn’t been open long enough for me to hate the whole place.”
He sighed, and Ellie knew he would acquiesce before he said, “Fine.”
The train station had yielded no really good information, other than an attendant who thought Moira had possibly gotten off a late train a few nights ago. He thought he’d remembered her pink hair. However, he wasn’t sure, and he’d have to ask his friend Kevin, “Cos he was at the other window and I think he might’ve tried to pull her.”
“If you know Kevin was tryin’ to pull her, then you know if you saw her or not,” Rose had told the man, not disguising her annoyance. “When will Kevin be in again? I’d like to talk to him.”
“Are you a cop?” the attendant asked.
“No, I’m a concerned friend,” That was all the guy had needed to know.
She finally left the train station, expecting that she’d have to return in a few hours to track down Kevin.
Rose walked around Broadchurch for a while after that, getting the lay of the land. She wasted some quid on a Broadchurch Echo, but she found nothing in it, other than a small article about a string of break-ins and a letter to the editor about how the cops were doing nothing about the robberies. There was a picture accompanying the article of the town’s Detective Inspector, looking dour. DI Hardy assures the town business owners that the perpetrator will soon be caught, the caption under the picture read. Unable to concentrate on the story, she glanced at the picture of DI Hardy again. That bloke from the train station... Wonder if he ever cracks a smile, she thought.
She sat on a bench with a view of the cliffs and beach, staring at the scenery without really noticing it. Her thoughts had turned to John again, the nightmare from earlier still clutching at her. Squeezing her eyes closed, she took several shaky breaths, letting the sound of the waves soothe her. She’d nearly relaxed when her phone buzzed and startled her. She opened her eyes to see that she’d received a text.
Hey, Rosie. It’s Jack!
A second later another sentence appeared. And Donna.
This made Rose smile. John’s cousin Donna and his best mate Jack had started a group text with Rose several months before. It was just like them to check on her. She felt guilty. After all, they’d lost John as well. Rose typed back, Hi there, you two. Xx
How goes it? She could hear Jack’s cheery American accented voice clearly in her mind.
Good. Just got to Broadchurch.
Donna responded, You lying about on the beach and eating chips? Or shopping?
Rose chuckled. No! I’m working. Not here for leisure at all, and since you work for my dad, you’d better get back to it! He’ll be cheesed off. John’s relationship with Rose had brought them both into the fold, and now they were practically family. Donna worked for Vitex, in public relations, and Jack worked part time for Torchwood. He’d retired early from some very secret government job, where he’d met Ianto. They’d started a restaurant, but Pete knew an asset when he saw one. It hadn’t taken much talking to get Jack on board with Torchwood.
Jack texted a laughing emoji then typed, If your dad can overlook us slacking off, he can overlook you lazing about. You better come home with a tan, Rosie.
We’ll see. You lot doing well?
Donna chimed in next. Same as always. Wish you were here so we could all go out for a pint. Well, we won’t keep you. Just thinking of you. Love you. Xx
Rose’s eyes stung with tears. She typed quickly, Love you, too. We’ll get that pint when I get home. Bye. Xx
Jack sent his love as well, and Rose was glad that they’d texted. She wasn’t sure if she could get through a conversation without crying. The four of them had been inseparable and now here they were, reduced to texting, and dancing around mentioning John for fear it would upset her. She felt guilty. She pressed the heels of her palms against her eyes, trying to ward of the wave of emotion threatening to engulf her. After a bit of deep breathing she felt that she could get up and go again.
It wasn’t the most efficient way of doing business but she stopped people on the street, showing them the pictures. She’d cropped out the man in mobile photo since his face was covered and the quality was poor. Mainly she had wanted it for the lily tattoo. Nobody remembered seeing Moira.
Rose took a free tourism map from a rack outside a souvenir shop. It was a cartoonish rendering of the town, featuring the local spots of interest, including the restaurants and pubs. She perused the map, thinking in terms of what places Moira might visit. Her eyes were drawn immediately to three pubs. They were within walking distance, but they would be quite a hike. I’ll bet someone saw her there, unfortunately.
Rose’s stomach rumbled, reminding her that she’d completely skipped breakfast. Looking around the street, she found that she was just a few steps away from a restaurant called Eloise’s. That seemed as good of a spot as any to grab a bite to eat while making a plan to continue searching for Moira.
The demolition crew had arrived at Briar Cliff, ready to prepare the old hut for demolition. The crew of four was local, and every one of them had been in town when the hut had gained its notoriety. Dale Ellis, the foreman, had been among the mob ready to string Jack Marshall up for Danny Latimer’s murder, a fact that haunted and shamed him to the present day. Nash Byrnes, the youngest member of the crew, had been in school. He was older than Danny and Tom Miller, but only by a few years. He remembered the curfew and parental fear that had gripped their little town. Coworker Kevin Lawry’s brother had been an EMT with Joe Miller. He still couldn’t believe that a monster had lurked under Miller’s kindly facade. The last member of the crew, Colin Smith, had decided before the jury had ever come back that the verdict would be not guilty, and furthermore Ellie and that wanker Hardy had been sleeping around on poor Joe the whole time.
There was one thing they all agreed on: the hut was a blight on the town, and it needed to be demolished before it added to its ignominious history by rolling down the cliff and claiming another life. They were all quite pleased to be part of the destruction.
The men were chattering enough to give Dale a headache, as he unlocked first the realtor’s lock, then the deadbolt. The door swung open and Dale stepped inside, with Byrnes close on his heels. The kid nearly walked into him as he stopped short.
Dale didn’t quite comprehend what he was seeing at first. Byrnes gasped and swore then spun around on his heels, hurrying back out. He nearly pushed Kevin and Colin over making his escape.
“Holy shit,” Kevin muttered, peeking into the room.
It seemed the appropriate response to the sight of a young woman lying on the floor of the dusty old shack.
Chapter 3: Chapter Three
Rose meets Ellie Miller and has an interesting second impression of Alec Hardy. The detectives investigate the crime scene.
As always, thanks so much to Rose—Nebula whose suggestions made this better!
Eloise’s was deserted when Hardy and Miller entered. It was a bit early for the lunch rush to be over. Ellie hoped the owner would make a go of it, despite some cooking missteps.
They settled in and began perusing the menus. “Bit trendy,” Hardy murmured.
“Would you know trendy if it bit you on the arse?” Ellie commented. “I’ve been here twice before with Beth. It’s pretty good. Except for the risotto. Don’t get that.”
“Havin’ a salad,” he decided.
She countered, “Ugh,” and decided on penne pasta with Alfredo sauce. A silence fell after the server took their orders, until Ellie couldn’t stand it and had to ask, “So, was Daisy okay when she got on the train?”
Hardy studied his water glass as if it had the answer to her question. Finally he said, “As well as can be expected. She didn’t want to go, at least for a full month. But Tess insisted.”
“I hope they can come to some sort of peace, Hardy. I can’t stand Tess, but I can put myself in her place. I’ve been there with Tom.”
Hardy raised an eyebrow. “So how’s that going?”
Ellie smiled, but it didn’t touch her eyes. “He only hates me fifty percent of the time for smashing his electronics and putting him in therapy. That’s a big improvement.”
“S’pose so,” he agreed. “What’s got him in a such a good mood?”
“Don’t know. Therapist says things are going well, whatever that means. Oh...by the way, meant to ask before she left, but do you think Daisy’d be interested in a part-time job a couple days a week? I need someone for Fred. Dad’s not all that reliable lately….” Ellie’s voice trailed off as she saw that Hardy was looking past her. She rolled her eyes. “Or you could pretend to listen a little more convincingly.”
A young woman had stepped into the restaurant, petite and blonde and somewhat familiar. She was greeted by the chirpy hostess. Hardy watched the newcomer, trying to place where he’d seen her when he heard Ellie’s voice. He glanced back at her, feeling that he’d missed something, perhaps important.
Ellie noticed the woman as well, and she smirked. When the hostess and the blonde passed their table, her smirk morphed into a genuinely cheery Ellie smile.
“What?” Hardy asked, annoyed.
“Are you in need of a matchmaker there, Hardy? Maybe I should get her number for you. Looks like she’s new in town.”
“Miller…” he warned.
“Why not? First of all, she’s unfamiliar so she’s likely not to have any preconceived notions of what a knob you are. What an advantage,” Ellie chucked. “And I can size her up for ya. Much more reliable than Tinder.”
“Don’t you dare,” Hardy warned. Ellie just smirked. Hardy expelled a huffy breath and then squinted at the blonde.
“You’re being kinda obvious for a bloke that doesn’t want to meet her. Quit starin’!”
“She looks familiar,” he said, waving her off. “Oh. Yeah, ran into her at the train station. Literally.”
“You apologized, didn’t you?”
Hardy rolled his eyes. “‘Course I did.”
“Hey, I’ve had to remind you before….”
Hardy glanced back at the woman, more covertly this time. She was attractive, for sure. She was dressed casually in jeans and a bright pink hoodie. Her hair was pulled up into a messy bun with wavy tendrils hanging down. She smiled up at the server and it lit up her whole face. That was the smile that had made his heart skip a beat, in a good way, at the the train station. He briefly allowed himself to wonder what it would be like to see that smile every day, until he thought, she is outta my league.
He glanced back at Miller who, infuriatingly, was still smirking. “Need the loo!” she chirped brightly. She hopped up, gathering her purse.
“Miller, don’t you….” Hardy’s warning was interrupted by his phone buzzing and he was distracted. Taking advantage of that, Miller hurried away.
When the hostess left Rose to settle into her booth, she sagged a bit, having tired of being cheery to people. She wondered when just smiling back at others had become such a chore. Even as a child on the Estates, where most of the time it was best to keep your eyes averted, she had been effortlessly friendly. John had been amazed by her ability to strike up a conversation and usually a friendship with just about everyone she met. He’d been grumpy and hard to get to know at first, but he’d warmed his heart and helped him open up to others. Now, she was the closed off one, unless she had a client or a witness to put at ease. Rose resolved to get back to the way she used to be, even if it took more emotional energy than she thought she had.
The server stopped by and took her drink order and she perused the menu. She looked up, having made her decision, and her attention fell upon the dark blue walls of the room. They reminded her of the bedroom she'd shared with John. There was a considerable amount of nautical decor, just like her chalet. Going all in on the sailor theme is must also be a big Broadchurch thing, she thought.
The woman who had smiled before was walking towards her. Now was as good as time as any to start that trip back to the old Rose. “Hi,” Rose greeted her cheerfully. It had taken a bit of effort. The stranger didn’t seem to notice, or if she did she was polite enough not to mention it.
“Oh, hello! Just thought I’d warn you about that salmon risotto. It’s disgusting. The cook here means well, but I could do better, and that’s not sayin’ much,” Ellie confided. “The place just opened a month ago, and the chef’s still workin’ out the kinks.”
Rose hadn’t expected a speech, but here they were. Damned if she didn’t just mention what I decided to order . “What about the chips?” Rose asked, deciding to roll with the unexpected encounter. The lady seemed lovely enough.
“Little soggy. You can’t go wrong with the penne pasta, though. That’s what I ordered. M’friend over there….” She pointed to Hardy, who was listening intently to his phone, “...got a salad. But he’s not very adventurous. I’m Ellie Miller, by the way. Don’t think I said.”
There was something so genuine and warm about the woman, and it set Rose at ease immediately. It was like talking to Donna, in a way. She smiled back effortlessly. “Well, nice to meet you, Ellie,” Rose said. “I’m Rose. I just got into town last night, late.”
“Stayin’ at the Traders then? I could tell you a coupla things about their restaurant, too.”
“I’m staying in one of the chalets along the waterfront. The little blue one,” Rose told her.
“Oh, that one?” Ellie nodded in the direction of the man at her table. “He used to live in it. Said the sailor decor drove him barmy. Bloke who rents it is nice, though, if you need anything repaired.”
Rose laughed. “They did go all in on the sailor theme. Did he like it otherwise?”
“You’d have to ask him. His name’s Alec Hardy, by the way. Works with me at the police department.”
Rose peered around her to see Hardy frowning as he listened to whoever was talking on the phone. He didn’t look pleased. She was beginning to think that was just how his face was most of the time. “Yeah. I met him, so to speak.”
“Hardy recognized you when you came in and he mentioned something about that. Hope he apologized.”
“He did,” Rose replied. “Then he bumped into me again. Is he always that distracted?”
“You caught him on a rough day. Dropped his daughter off for a visit to her mum’s.”
Rose remembered that there had been a teenager with him. She immediately understood why he’d been inattentive. Much of Rose’s childhood had been spent with her parents apart, until they’d gotten it together and remarried seven years ago. Recalling how hard it had been to be shuffled between her parents before they had reunited, she sympathized.
She nodded understandingly, and an awkward silence fell. To fill the void, Ellie said brightly, “Well...hope you enjoy Broadchurch. The speed boat races are coming up soon, and that’s always fun. How long are you in town?”
Rose considered her answer carefully. “Not sure. I’m on a….working holiday.”
“Well, I hope you enjoy yourself. If you’re lookin for fish and chips, you have to try that new food truck that’s been around town. Best chips I’ve ever had in my mouth, and….”
“Miller!” Hardy suddenly bellowed from the table. He was already standing up and throwing cash on the table, ready to go.
Ellie jolted with surprise at the sudden interruption. She glared back at Hardy, and Rose peered around her, eyes wide.
“S‘cuse me, looks like something has come up,” Ellie explained hurriedly. “Erm..welcome to Broadchurch!” She marched back to the table.
What an arse, Rose thought. What a complete arse. How does she do it? How can she work with someone….
Ellie was glaring at Hardy all the way back to their table. “Fine if you don’t want me to chat her up for you, but you don’t have to be such a bloomin’ knob about it. Rude as hell, you are!” she hissed as he walked toward her.
“We need to get up to the Briar Cliff hut. Now,” Hardy ordered. He gestured for her to go, so Ellie smiled back nervously at Rose and followed.
Hardy glanced back at the woman, getting a quick glimpse of her raised eyebrow and scowl. So much for second impressions. He had other things to worry about now, much more important things than wondering if he had completely put off an attractive blonde.
He headed for the door with Miller on his heels. “What the bleedin’ hell?” Ellie groused.
Hardy spoke quietly. “Demolition crew found a body at the Briar Cliff shack. Woman. C’mon.” And with that, Hardy pushed through the door, with Ellie close behind.
Rose watched Hardy conferring with Ellie as they hurried to the door. Ellie’s face fell as he spoke to her. They both hurried out. Rose heard some police cars wailing as they rushed past. An ambulance followed.
Rose sat, stunned for a few seconds, then she stood up, gathering her purse. She turned and bumped into the server. “I’m sorry….’m...not feeling well…”. She fished some cash out and left it on the table as she rushed away, not wanting to leave them empty handed.
She burst out onto the sidewalk, walking in the direction of the police cars. She saw Hardy and Ellie speed by in the same direction, toward the cliff road. Rose followed, trying to convince herself that she had no reason, none at all, for her stomach to be tied up in anxious knots.
“Bloody hell,” Ellie growled upon hearing what had been found in the shack on the cliff.
“The demolition crew went into the hut to tear out wiring and begin the process of gettin’ rid of the place and found her on the floor. SOCO is already on the way securin’ the scene. Hope they don’t fuck it up.” He watched as Ellie guided the car to the cordoned off area approaching the shack. The officer on duty waved them on. Hardy ran his hand through his hair absently. Another death in Broadchurch. Murder? Suicide? “Damn them, troopin’ around in there muckin’ about in the crime scene.”
“I think that’s SOCO’s job,” Ellie responded, her flippancy poorly masking her anxiety..
Hardy glared, trying to hide his own trepidation. “M’talkin’ about the demolition crew, an’ you know it.” Ellie rolled her eyes, then parked the car by the SOCO van and they got out into the controlled chaos of a death investigation.
The shack had seen such activity before, when it was determined that Joe had killed Danny there. The one major difference from then was the erosion destroying the cliff side. The reason the shack was finally being demolished was due to fear that it would tumble down the cliff at some point. Hardy and Miller could have done with it being destroyed much sooner, but the town had to approve the money to get it done and hire the contractor to do it.
The crew, standing by their lorry, looked as if they wished they’d never taken this job. One of the men, who looked no more than a couple of years older than Tom, was bent over, hands braced on his knees, trying valiantly to keep his breakfast down.
SOCO Brian met them halfway, shoe covers already in hand. “It’s a woman,” he said, without preamble. “Young, mid-twenties. No visible injuries.”
Hardy and Miller glanced at each other. Ellie squared her shoulders. Brian handed over the shoe covers and gloves.
When they were ready to go in, Hardy signaled for the detectives on the scene and SOCO to gather. Ellie stood beside him as he began his speech. “First of all, keep the gawkers and any press far away. This place is notorious enough. We don’t need a bloody audience.” He deliberately didn’t glance at Ellie as he said this. Everyone knew what he was was referencing, so the other officers didn’t look in Ellie’s direction, either. “No leaks. No bloody twitter. No stupid mistakes. We don’t know what we have yet and I don’t want any rumors out there.” He scanned the crowd, making eye contact with as many people as he could, quietly asserting his authority. Katie Herford was one of the few whose eye contact didn’t waver. He nodded, dismissing them.
The SOCO team was ready to accompany Hardy and Miller into the shack. “You can stay put here and check things out with the demo crew,” Hardy murmured. She was already sliding the shoe covers on. He put his own on as Ellie glowered at him.
“I’m goin’ in with you,” Ellie argued. She saw his directive for what it was: an out, so she didn’t have to enter. Well, that’s rubbish. M’not made of glass, she thought. She might not have said the words aloud but the look she gave Hardy clearly communicated her intent.
“Harford, follow up with the demo crew,” Hardy ordered. When he looked from Katie he noticed that Ellie was already halfway through the door. He quickly followed her.
The Briar Cliff hut had deteriorated in the years since Danny’s murder. It had been abandoned, relegated to a footnote in the sad history of the town. No longer meticulously kept up, the interior had a fine sheen of dust and sand everywhere. Part of the ceiling had collapsed in the main room, due to lack of maintenance following a succession of winter storms. The shack gave off an aura of despair. Hardy glanced at Ellie, who was visibly distraught for only a few seconds before she schooled her features into a neutral expression. His heart broke a little for her but there was work to be done, and the ghosts haunting this place couldn’t get in the way.
The body lay in the corner of the room. “We think she’s been here a day or so,” Brian commented.
“We need a more accurate guess than a day or so,” Hardy muttered.
Brian pressed his lips together, holding back his retort.
Hardy knelt down by the body. She was petite and young, late twenties, he estimated. She wore jeans and a t-shirt, bearing the logo of the Cavern Club. Her hair was long and platinum blonde. She’d dyed the bottom six inches of the length a bright pink. Hardy looked up at Ellie.
“Didn’t the woman in the CCTV footage have light hair dyed dark at the ends?” Ellie murmured.
“Just thinkin’ the same thing,” Hardy agreed. “Could mean nothin’ or could be tied to the robberies.”
The woman appeared to have suffered no trauma, looking almost peaceful in death. “Tattoo on her right forearm,” Ellie observed. “Looks like a lily.”
She had needle marks on her left arm, and when one of the CID officers declared that he’d found a syringe under an old, moldy sofa nearby, another piece of the puzzle dropped. “Came here to shoot up, I reckon,” Philip Jonas speculated. Hardy’s head whipped around. He hadn’t noticed that the rookie detective had entered the room.
He stared down the young detective. “Suppose you have the whole thing solved for us, do ya now?” Turning to the CID officer he ordered, “How about you just bag that.” Wide eyed, the officer collected the evidence. Jonas’ lips pressed together. Brian rolled his eyes, realizing he was better off saying nothing.
“What’s the point of entry? Was the door forced?” Ellie asked.
“The door was locked, according to the crew foreman,” Brian told them. “The boards had been pulled off that window.”
Ellie scanned the room. There was a cliffside facing window, and she crossed the room to investigate it, with Hardy on her heels. Careful not to touch the windowsill, Ellie leaned out the opened window. She was greeted with a view of the cliff. “There’s not more than three feet of ground between this window and the edge, Hardy. S’amazin’ she didn’t go tumblin’ down the cliffside.” Looking to the left she saw that the boards that had covered the window leaned against the side of the hut.
“Why would you go to that much trouble to begin with?” Hardy asked. “It’d take some effort, and I don’t think she could do that without tools. Makes no sense.”
Ellie caught sight of something small at the lower left angle of the window sill. “What’s that? Fabric piece caught on some wood, see?”
There was indeed a small piece of fabric, bright blue twill, caught on a jagged piece of wood. It was small enough to overlook if one was paying more attention to the view or the ground beneath the window. “Someone climbin’ in got caught on the wood,” Ellie pointed out. They looked back at the body, which was in the process of being covered up.
“Wait a sec,” Hardy ordered. The victim’s t-shirt was black and her jeans were an acid washed gray. She wore scuffed brown boots covering the trouser cuffs, and there was no bright blue twill to be seen.
“Collect that fabric piece,” Ellie directed. “See if it matches anything the crew is wearing.” Brian took charge of that task personally. To Hardy, Ellie said, “I don’t think it will.”
“She met someone on the way. Or….”
“Someone was waiting for her here. Meeting a dealer? Someone local, who’d know how to get into this place.”
“Still….she waited around while the dealer or whoever took the boards off the window?” Hardy asked skeptically.
“Go back to the crew. They have tools, could be one of them. I’m assumin’ they’re doin’ prep work ahead of the demolition,” Ellie nodded. “We just got notice they were tearing the hut down today, but who knows how long they’ve been workin’ ahead of the demolition date. If it was done with the expectation she’d be here…” Ellie shrugged. “It’s a place to start.”
Hardy sighed. They definitely needed a starting place. “I don’t think this is going to turn out as straightforward as it might seem. Never does.” Ellie looked back at the young victim, who was being covered in preparation for the coroner. She nodded in agreement.
It was a ten minute walk to where the police cars had rushed. The day had become unseasonably warm as the sun peeked from behind the clouds, forcing Rose to remove her hoodie and tie it around her waist. The scenery around her was stunning but she barely noticed. She’d climbed halfway up the steep road when she was stopped by the police, who had cordoned off the area. Up ahead she saw a crowd of people buzzing about an old, dilapidated cabin. She wormed her way through the curious onlookers, trying to get as close as she possibly could.
Rose stopped at the crime scene tape blocking her way. Biting her lip, she considered for a second and went to grab the yellow tape. She had to know what was going on. Nearly in a panic with concern for Moira, she started to raise it. It would only take a few steps to sneak onto the property, and even if it was a huge mistake, it would get her closer to knowing.
“Hey! Stop!” a voice called out. She winced.
Yeah, could’ve told you that was comin’, she thought, and with a bit of amusement she noticed that her internal voice had a Northern accent.
“I..I was just wonderin’ what happened...I’m lookin’ for a friend, see…” Rose stammered.
The copper did not look impressed. “Yeah, how about no. You’ll wanna leave. The lead detective absolutely hates the gawkers and the press. And that was about the most awkward cover story I’ve ever heard.”
Rose, who did indeed have a press pass, mocked up from Torchwood, complete with a background provided by Mickey, smiled. “You got me.” She pulled out her press pass. “I’m doing a story on missing person cold cases, and I’m wondering if one of them just warmed up. I tell you what...You think you could let me know what’s going on in a bit? Maybe?” She gave him the smile she considered irresistible, the one where the tongue poked out, and the copper smiled back.
He dashed Rose’s hopes immediately. “Don’t think so. My job is worth more than your need for a scoop. Hardy would string me up. Nice try though.” He regarded her for a moment. “You’ll want to leave now.”
Rose smiled and nodded, beginning her retreat. It had been a long shot anyway. Well, that was about the worst you’ve ever done, she berated herself, and this time the voice sounded squarely like her own. You’re lettin’ the panic get to you. Get a grip.
But even as she told herself that, the panic squeezed at her heart. The sight of the coroner’s van pulling up did nothing to assuage her fears. She had the feeling that she would be delivering very bad news to her client.
Chapter 4: Chapter Four
Rose and Hardy face off at the police station.
Thank you to Rose—Nebula for helping me with this chapter!
Rose watched from a distance as the coroner and his assistants entered the cabin. A murmur went up from the crowd, and she caught snippets of what they were saying.
You think Joe offed himself in the hut?
We can only hope….
Bullshit, he didn’t kill Danny, can’t convince me of that at all. Jury said he weren’t guilty. S’ good enough for me.
Rose pulled out her phone, opening the internet browser. She remembered, vaguely, the events in Broadchurch from a few years before. She’d been in school, and not a lot of current event information had registered with her.
Now she typed keywords into the search engine: Danny. Broadchurch. Alec Hardy.
It didn’t take long for several articles to pop up.
Body of young boy on beach identified. “We will catch who did this” DI Hardy claims.
“ DI Hardy,” Rose murmured as she scanned the results.
Worst Cop In Britain. Rose snorted in amusement. “Jury’s still out on being the worst...but he’s definitely the rudest.”
Joseph Miller arrested in connection to Latimer murder. Wife Eleanor Miller, a Wessex detective sergeant investigating the case, has been cleared….
Rose’s eyebrows raised as she read the familiar name.
Another wave of activity from the crowd alerted Rose to the scene playing out in front of her. A stretcher bearing a body bag was wheeled from the hut. To Rose’s unpracticed eye, the size of the person within it appeared small. Her heart sank a bit more. Certainly it wasn’t a grown man. She silently prayed that it wasn’t Moira, or another child.
Well, there was only one way to find out . Rose decided that her next visit would be to the police station.
Rose dialed Pete. His phone rang several times and then went to voicemail, prompting a groan from his daughter. She really needed to see how he’d want her to proceed. “Dad, the case has taken a bit of a turn. Call me back,” she said without preamble. Disconnecting that call, she immediately hit Mickey’s number. He answered.
“Hey, babe,” Mickey’s usual greeting grated on her nerves today.
“Mickey, the Burton case has gotten complicated.”
“What’s goin’ on?”
Rose gave him a summary of what had transpired that afternoon. Mickey groaned. “Well, you don’t know for sure if it’s her.”
“No, I don’t, but I don’t have good feeling about it. M’goin’ to the police department to see if I can find anything out. Or help them identify the body.”
“You wouldn’t be allowed to see it. You’d just be in the way. Wait it out,” Mickey advised.
“And if it’s not her and Moira’s in trouble….”
“You stay out of trouble.”
“I can handle myself. And don’t remind me of my lack of experience, like you’re about to.” Rose could imagine Mickey’s eye roll.
She heard him sigh heavily, likely realizing the futility of trying to tell Rose what to do. “Fine, then. You’re gonna do what you bleedin’ want, right? Stay outta the cops’ way. I spent enough time workin’ out your cover story, so use it. And I’m not gonna tell your mum, so don’t worry. But I will check in with your dad!”
“Quite right!” Rose disconnected the call, then was slightly embarrassed by the lack of a proper good-bye. She was too focused on what she had to do next, and she didn’t want to examine what Mickey had intimated about her too closely.
The body was removed from the cabin, which had received a stay of execution because it was the scene of a death, once again. The demolition crew was instructed to be interviewed at the police station. The crew foreman was disgruntled. “My crew can’t get paid,” he complained within Hardy’s earshot. It earned him a side-eye from the equally disgruntled detective inspector, but nothing more.
Hardy and Miller stayed to supervise the follow-up, so it was an hour before they returned to the police station. “Bollocks,” Ellie swore as she parked the car. Hardy groaned. “No use goin’ around the back. They already saw us.” Some of the people, bearing notebooks and recorders, had broken away and were moving in their direction.
This time Hardy punctuated his second groan with a “Fuck.” They got out of the car.
The reporters immediately began to shout questions. Was there a body found? Was it a woman? Did it have anything to do with Danny Latimer? Do you think there’s a link between the murders?
How the bloody hell would I know that? Makin’ connections that probably aren’t bloody there…. Hardy spoke aloud, “No comment. You’ll be briefed when there’s something to report.” He ushered a silently glowering Ellie up the stairs and through the door, trying to ignore out any other questions.
They were just a few steps into the building when a timid desk sergeant intercepted them. “DI Hardy,” he began, nervously, and Ellie had the mental image of a canary sent into a coal mine. Hardy stopped and glared at him, but to his credit, he held the DI’s eye contact. “We..we found this telephone message, from last night, to you, from an...anonymous caller. She wanted to speak to you.”
“What?” Hardy asked sharply.
“It wasn’t passed on,” the desk sergeant said, unnecessarily.
“I’m not..sure. You’d have to ask Brandeis, he was on last night. But...it was anonymous and didn’t seem to be a high priority. And I think you were, erm, off last night.”
Ellie winced. She hoped the sergeant would stop digging the hole he was in, because it was just getting deeper by the second.
“And the anonymous caller was a woman?”
“Did she leave a phone number, for me to return the call?”
The sergeant looked down. Ellie noticed a slight tremble in his hands. “Yes, sir.”
“We just came from a crime scene. A woman is dead. So. The next time I get a message, whether it is perceived as a priority or not,” Hardy’s voice had been low, deliberate and dangerous. He bellowed the last, “ call me . It will be up to me to determine whether it’s a priority or not! Is that clear ?”
“Yes, sir,” he stammered, pressing the message into Hardy’s hand before scurrying away.
Ellie sighed heavily. “Y’know, Hardy, the next time he calls you with a message and it’s not a priority and you give him a bollocking for callin’, he’ll think he can’t win for losin’.”
Hardy was already poking impatiently at the elevator button. “Bloody hard of thinkin’ arsehole....what if this is from our victim?” They entered the elevator, Hardy continuing to fume.
All at once the emotions of the day hit Ellie. She shuddered, wrapping her arms around herself. Hardy reached out and put a hand on her arm. She sighed, leaning against the wall. Glancing at Hardy, she saw him looking worriedly at her, and she was amazed that he had pulled himself out of his own fury to notice something was amiss with her. There’s hope for him yet, she thought . “It’s...just...bein’ back there in that hut, under those circumstances….gimme a minute, I’ll pull myself together. Don’t have time for me to be a mess.”
“No, we don’t,” Hardy agreed. “But I’d understand if you were. The location of the body alone will sensationalize the situation. Can you manage it?”
“I have to,” Ellie stated simply as the elevator doors opened. Then they stepped out onto the CID floor. She murmured, so that only Hardy heard, “But I wish the fucking hut had burned down ages ago. Wish I’d lit it.”
The new Chief Supervisor was already waiting for them. Evans was in his first supervisory role and new to the area. Ellie was cautiously optimistic that he’d work out. Hardy didn’t like him, and wouldn’t like him, until Evans gave him a reason to. This would be his first death investigation. He was already talking to them before they had a chance to fully step off the elevator.
“The reporters are overrunning the front entrance,” Evans proclaimed gravely. Hardy found Evans’ tendency toward hyperbole irritating.
“We saw,” Hardy answered.
“You’re going to need to make a statement soon. People need to be reassured that we’re not facing something similar to before.” He glanced at Ellie. “I’m thinking of moving Miller to the robberies and Harford can…”
All at once Ellie was much less optimistic about Evans, and she glared at him. Hardy was having none of it. “Miller’s with me. Harford can lead the robberies after she’s done with interviewing the demolition crew.” He and Evans stared each other down for a few seconds and Evans was the first to look away. He nodded curtly.
“We’ll need that statement,” Evans said.
“You’ll have it when we know what we’re dealing with.” Hardy strode towards Ellie’s desk. Ellie followed with one last glance in Evans’ direction. He seemed to be at loose ends, having lost to Hardy.
Ellie murmured, “This could get interestin’.”
Hardy shrugged. “Let’s pull up the CCTV footage from earlier. See if it’s the same woman.”
Rose was regretting the hoodie. Even around her waist it was too much in the unseasonably warm weather. She pushed her sweaty hair out of her eyes as she approached the oddly shaped Wessex Police building. She mounted the steps, determined. There were several people in line at the front desk, and people she reckoned were from the press waiting by a water cooler.
She didn’t want to wait. Trying to no avail to catch the eye of a desk sergeant, she finally gave up and scanned the room. The elevator was just a few steps away, so she strode purposefully towards it.
Rose had quickly learned, because John had had a penchant for going off the beaten track where tourists usually didn’t dare to go, that it was always best if you behaved as though you belonged where you were. This philosophy of John’s had gotten them into as much trouble as it had gotten them out. Just act like you belong, she heard the Northern voice in her head advise. The sound of him reassured her.
Rose pressed the elevator button and the door opened, a rare stroke of good luck. She looked back as the door closed and saw that she had been noticed by the copper with whom she had tried to flirt. His eyes widened, and she pressed a random floor button, realizing that she hadn’t looked at the directory. Since there were a limited amount of floors available, she felt reasonably sure she’d picked the right one. The copper began jogging towards the elevator, but the door closed and Rose was on her way up before he could detain her.
She felt rather certain that her father would not have approved this course of action, but he hadn’t called her back. Nor had Jack, so she was on her own.
The woman on the CCTV footage, was, as far as they could tell, very similar to the woman in the hut. They followed her progress on successive cameras to the final one at the car park by the Briar Cliff hut. In the second video they observed the woman pulling out her phone and placing a brief call as she walked. Hardy sighed, wondering if she’d been calling him.
“It could’ve been anyone calling, Hardy,” Ellie reassured him as she switched to the next camera.
By the time they finished, all they were sure of was that a woman who was similar to their victim walked alone through Broadchurch and met no one. When she arrived at the car park by Briar Cliff, she walked out of camera view. They watched to see if anyone else followed. The park was deserted for a good ten minutes after the woman’s arrival. “M’gonna assign someone to watch it, see if anyone else shows up. Of course, if it turns out our vicitm’s been dead longer than 24 hours then it’s all for nothin’,” Hardy pointed out.
“That woman is too similar not to be her,” Ellie argued.
They were interrupted by Harford. “I’ve got one more to interview- the one who was about to chuck his breakfast. I’ll get the report to you afterwards. Just wanted to tell you, Carl called up and said one of those reporters is on her way up. Slipped past him and got on the elevator.”
The elevator doors began to slide open. “She’s got balls, I’ll give her that,” Harford smirked as she headed back to the interview room.
Hardy and Miller looked past Harford to see the blonde from the restaurant confidently walking onto the CID floor.
Rose reckoned that the copper might have tipped them off to her arrival. She wasn’t expecting to have the full force of an Alec Hardy glare turned on her, though. Not wishing to appear intimidated, she squared her shoulders and approached Ellie. At least they’d had a friendly encounter. “Hello,” Rose greeted them. She’d seen John pull this move many times. Smile brilliantly and act as though you belong. And if that doesn’t work, run.
Perhaps she shouldn’t follow that last part of John’s advice, she decided. She reminded herself to use the surname on her press pass. “Rose Prentice. I think we met at Eloise’s.”
Ellie managed a smile but Hardy’s face clearly communicated his lack of interest in any past meetings. “Hello, Rose,” Ellie said, shaking her hand. “S’ not where I expected to meet up with you again.” Ellie’s smile was pleasant, but her eyebrow was raised, prompting her need for an explanation from Rose.
“DI Hardy? Seems as though we have something in common. I’m staying in your old chalet while I’m in town.” Rose mentally winced at her horrible attempt at small talk. Hardy’s lips were pressed together in a thin line, his arms crossed.
“Why are you here?” Before Rose could answer him he continued on in his rapid-fire manner. “Member of the press, lookin for a scoop? Thinkin’ maybe, I’ll be impressed by the nerve you have? M’not. Don’t expect any deals, any I’ll help you if you help me. Right now, you’re a step above bloody Twitter in my estimation, and that’s not high. Bob, escort her back downstairs.” He marched past her, towards his office, effectively ending the conversation.
Ellie went into damage control mode, noting the brief look of shock on Rose’s face, before schooled it into a more neutral expression. “He hates the press, if that’s what you are.”
“I am. I’m doing a story on cold missing persons cases,” Rose explained, using her well rehearsed cover story.
“He doesn’t want the investigation compromised, and I don’t either. You seem like a nice person, Rose, but…”. Ellie shook her head. “If you come up with any information that’s relevant to the case…”
They were interrupted by Hardy sticking his head out his open office door, bellowing, “ Miller! ”
“You’ll have to leave now, Rose,” Ellie urged her.
“I’ll leave when I have my say! The person I’m looking for may very well be the person you have downstairs in the morgue!” Rose raised her voice, loud enough for all around her to hear, including Hardy. Rose hated to admit it to herself but the look of shock on Hardy’s face was rather satisfying. “Maybe if you stop bellowing long enough, DI Hardy, you’ll listen to what I have to say.”
She handed the pictures to Ellie who looked at them, expelling a sigh. Ellie passed them off to Hardy when he joined them again.
Hardy gazed at the pictures, realizing that earlier in the morning, he’d held those photos at the train station. The face staring up at him, haunted and thin, was indeed the woman on the slab downstairs. He kept his expression impassive with some effort. “Let’s get you in an interview room,” was his only comment. He walked away, the women following him.
As Rose took her seat across the table from Hardy and Miller, she glanced at Hardy. His expression was still infuriatingly inscrutable. His eyes were fixed upon hers, though, and Rose struggled not to shiver under his gaze. He was the very definition of intense.
And damned attractive, as well. Which was something she absolutely could not be thinking about under the circumstances. Still, the thought was out there and couldn’t be taken back. She tried her best to ignore it.
Hardy was giving her his best intimidation stare. His thoughts were a jumble of bloody press...better not interfere….better not waste my time... and grudging admiration for the way she’d stood up to him on the CID floor. She was holding eye contact, not wavering, and he was impressed.
It didn’t hurt that she was attractive as well, which he absolutely could not be considering at this moment. No. He decided to focus on the fact that she identified herself as a member of the press. He held onto that thought and gave her a look of mild disgust.
Ellie just wished he’d get on with it. We could stare at each other all day or we could get something accomplished.
“So. I’ve never seen you in Broadchurch before today, but yet it’s…” He consulted his watch. “Half two, and I’ve seen you three times. How long have you been in town?”
“I came in last night. Late train. I got the keys to my chalet and moved in. This morning I’ve been checking around town for a...missing persons cold case story I’m writing.” She placed her press pass on the table. Hardy picked it up, and scanned it quickly.
“Gonna need to run a check on this,” he told her. He turned to Ellie. “Pass it off to Harford to check. She’s less likely to cock it up.” Ellie accepted the press pass with a nod.
“Go ahead,” Rose countered. She knew her dad and Mickey had been extremely careful setting up the press credentials, even as they hoped she’d never need them.
“Be right back,” Ellie said, more for Rose’s benefit than anything. She stepped out of the room briefly.
There was an awkward pause as both Hardy and Rose sized each other up. Ellie returned, murmuring, “Caught her out in the hall. She’ll get right on it.”
“We’ll need the pictures,” he said, shortly. Rose pushed those across the table to them.
“I intended to give them to you. Just to make that clear,” she said. Hardy responded with a raise of his eyebrow.
“What brought you to Broadchurch, Rose?” Ellie asked.
“As I said, working holiday. I’ve been writing a story about missing persons cold cases. This particular case warmed up suddenly. The woman in the picture is named Moira Burton. She’s 27, and a recovering addict. She went missing but it wasn’t taken seriously by the police as she’s been in and out of rehab for years. I figured out that she’d moved to Liverpool and had worked a couple of waitressing jobs. I found a train schedule but no ticket, so I have no idea how long she’s actually been in town. Or why she came here to begin with. It was a rather sudden move. She abandoned her job to do it.”
“Is that why I saw you at the train station, then?” Hardy asked, still gazing at the pictures.
“When we ran into each other?” Rose confirmed with a smile, in an attempt to ingratiate herself. Ellie’s lips twitched upwards. Noting that Hardy was not amused, Rose added, “I was tryin’ to determine when she arrived.” He nodded curtly.
“Is it Moira, then?” Rose asked, a knot forming in her stomach..
Hardy answered, his eyes still on the photos, “We can’t confirm that.”
Rose protested, “Please, I need to know. Her parents deserve to know. They’re sick with worry.” Rose nearly spilled everything at that moment, wanting to tell them that she was an investigator and the parents were friends of the family, but she didn’t have the opportunity.
A glaring Hardy snapped, “You won’t be contacting anyone. That’s our job. We’ll need the parents’ contact information. Then you go on your merry way, after we check your story.”
“If you could just stop being offended by my existence for a mo, and listen to me….”
“You’re the press. Just a step up from a private eye, in my estimation.” Rose’s eyes widened for a split second, but Hardy wasn’t finished. “You’ll not be usin’ this police department for a scoop, either. Give us the contact information.”
Ellie noted Rose’s anger boiling up and interjected, “It would be best if we handled this part of it, Rose. I appreciate that you want to help that family. God knows, I’d be insane with worry if it was me in their place. But we can’t risk the investigation. We need to be the ones to make contact.”
Their good cop/bad cop routine was wearing thin, and Rose wanted to leave. She took out her phone and pulled up Marshall Burton’s number. Ellie presented her with a paper and pen to write it down. Once the paper was given back, Ellie squinted at what Rose had written.
“Marshall Burton? The tech guy?” she asked.
“Don’t know him,” Hardy commented, looking over Rose’s press pass.
Ellie gave a snort of laughter. “Not a surprise there. I know of him because my son’s a techie and by default I’ve had to become one.” With a smirk she added, “Technology is not Hardy’s friend.”
Hardy gave his partner a dark look. “So, he’s famous?”
Ellie shrugged. “Not exactly famous, but he’s known.”
He gave a world weary sigh, removing his glasses and rubbing his eyes. “That could complicate things. More press involvement, for sure, coupled with that location….”
Rose was furious. After having spent time with Marshall Burton, and discussing him with her parents, she had an inkling of the hell he was going through. She hated to hear him dismissed as an inconvenience. She snapped, “Well, sorry I couldn’t deliver a nice, anonymous family to make your life easier.”
It was brief, but she caught a bit of a surprised smirk on Hardy’s face.
“It’s Moira, though, isn’t it?” Rose asked again, her tone insistent.
“Can’t confirm it,” Hardy countered.
“Can’t deny it either,” Rose shot back. “Listen, Moira’s family is in agony right now. If there’s a chance….”
“How well do you know the family, then?” Hardy cut in.
Rose sighed, frustrated. “I’ve known of the family for years. I never really socialized with Moira, but I met her, and I knew about her addiction problems. When she went missing, I…” Here was where the story deviated from reality. She wanted to tell the truth about her job but Hardy’s comment about investigators told her all she needed to know about how he would react. So she forged on with a half-truth. “...I contacted them.”
“Because of your cold case investigation,” Hardy supplied. “It was a good opportunity for a story.”
Rose’s eyes narrowed. Attractive or not, she wasn’t going to let this wanker write her off as an opportunist. “Don’t think I like what you’re insinuatin’, DI Hardy. I contacted them because I thought I could help. I went through a bit of a rough period when I was younger, and my mum was miserable with worry. My issues weren’t anything like Moira’s but I saw what it did to my mum, and I didn’t want her parents to be without answers. If that’s me being an opportunist, then bloody hell yes, that’s what I’ll be. Now I’d like to get back to helpin’ them, if that’s not too much to ask.”
For Ellie it was a bit like watching a tennis ball being lobbed over a net. She realized two things at the same time: Rose had probably just gotten match point, and that she liked this woman. She tried to temper that reaction, knowing that her feelings about anyone they questioned had no place in the investigation. The Latimer case had taught her well.
As for Hardy, he wanted to come back with an angry retort, but he didn’t. He found that he was a bit in awe of her tirade. “I think we have enough for now. You’ll need to wait, downstairs, and we’ll return your press pass. You will not contact Marshall Burton, we will. I expect you to respect the investigation and not go on bleeding Twitter or anything else to publicize this. Understood?”
“Understood,” Rose said, not breaking eye contact. There was a brief moment in which Ellie thought a staring contest might break out.
“I’ll walk you out, Ms. Prentice,” Ellie offered.
Rose nodded, glancing at DI Hardy. He was scanning over her press pass. She knew Mickey had done his work well, and that it would hold up. Hardy looked up at her, his brown eyes intense. They regarded each other for a moment as Ellie opened the door. She followed the detective out.
“He’s about to call Marshall, isn’t he?” Rose asked once they were in the hall.
“Likely, yes,” Ellie answered. “He’s gonna want to handle this part himself.”
Rose rubbed her eyes tiredly. “How do you work with him?” she asked, frustrated.
Ellie chuckled. “Well, it ain’t easy. We had an extraordinarily rough start. But he’s very good at what he does. And so am I, and we balance each other out.”
“And the bellowing? How do you handle him bellowing your name like he does?” They’d arrived at the elevator by then, and Ellie pressed the button.
“There’s normal volume, and there’s Hardy volume, and my ears just have learned to adjust. Must have something to do with having noisy kids at home. But, Ms. Prentice…”
“Just call me Rose,” she requested.
“Hardy’s a good man, Rose. Hard to get to know, and sometimes hard to be friends with...but he will always do his best to figure out what’s goin’ on. Just let us do our jobs, and….”
“Point taken. I’ll stay out of the way. All I ever wanted to do was to help Moira’s family.”
They stepped off the elevator together. Rose noticed the copper from before giving her a dark look.
“I know, Rose,” Ellie sympathized, patting Rose’s arm. Then she turned and went back to the elevator, leaving Rose alone.
Chapter 5: Chapter Five
The mystery deepens as both Hardy and Rose continue to investigate Moira’s actions in Broadchurch.
Many thanks to Rose—Nebula for all her help!
Hardy had followed Miller and the reporter out of the interview room. He watched as they entered the elevator, then he retreated to his office, flopping onto his office chair. He reckoned he should be feeling rather more disgruntled than he was at that moment. After all, the reporter had had the bollocks to breach the security of the reception area. If Karen White had pulled that, or even Olly Stevens, heads would have rolled, upstairs and down.
Instead, he felt a bit of grudging admiration for Ms. Rose Prentice, and this was an unusual situation for him.
His mind turned back to those few seconds in the train station as he had helped her up and she had smiled, remembering that not so unpleasant lurch he’d felt in his chest.
Then he sat bolt upright. Oh, bloody hell, no. Cannot be thinkin’ about that right now. There were about a million reasons why he could not contemplate being attracted to her. Of main importance, the fact that he was knee deep, and only likely to go deeper, into what could end up being a murder investigation.
But the idea was out there. It could not be unthought. So he decided to acknowledge it. She’s bloody gorgeous. I’m attracted. All right. Enough of that. Back to work….
Hardy jolted with surprise, appreciative of the pacemaker keeping everything steady. “Yeah?” Harford had poked her head in.
“I have that background check for you. Everything checked out. She’s a freelancer,” Harford informed him, laying a printout on his desk. He fished his glasses out of his pocket.
“Well…” He scanned the sheet. Rose Prentice was apparently from London, he read. “She’s waitin’ downstairs. Give her the pass back and tell her to stay in town. We’ll need to talk to her again.”
“On it,” Harford told him, leaving the room with the press pass.
Hardy scanned the printout, satisfied that all seemed to be in order. Unable to spend any more time contemplating Rose, he turned his attention to the call he’d have to make to Marshall Burton.
Rose sank into a chair by a bank of windows. She blew out a deep breath, slumping. Tears stung her eyes. Their lack of confirmation was practically an admission that Moira was in the morgue. It hadn’t been out of the realm of possibilities that Moira would be dead. It was still a horrible shock, though. She fished her phone out of her purse. She couldn’t call the Burtons, out of respect for Hardy’s request. Out of respect for Ellie’s request , she corrected herself. Good man or not, he’d been a right arse, and Ellie had showed her nothing but kindness.
Rose dialed her father. He picked up after a couple of rings. “What the hell is goin’ on?” He said by way of greeting.
“Talked to Mickey, I take it?” Rose asked with an eye roll. “I tried to call you. Several times.”
“Vitex board meeting. Couldn’t you get Jack?”
“No, and I’m not going to argue over all that. The DI in charge of the death investigation is calling Marshall right now. He’ll want him to come to Broadchurch to identify the body they found today. There’s a good chance it’s Moira. They confirmed it, without sayin’ the words.”
“Blimey, Rose,” Pete sighed.
The tears flowed at the sound of his voice. She angled herself so the people at the desk wouldn’t see her face. “I just wanted to help her. I was so hopin’ I would find her and get her home to Patsy and Marshall. I knew there was a chance she could be dead. But I’d imagined myself talkin’ to her and convincin’ her to go back home, and I can’t even comprehend the thought that she could be….”
“Sweetheart, I know. I’m so sorry. Look, I’ll send Jack there, and…”
“No! I started this, I’ll finish it. They’ll need me to hang around if it is her and no matter which way it goes I want to find out what’s been going on with her. Her parents deserve it. And Moira deserves it, too. I couldn’t help her while she was alive, but I’ll be damned I’ll let this go now that she isn’t.”
She heard Pete’s heavy sigh and could imagine him at his desk, rubbing his eyes tiredly. “Honey, we know what probably happened.”
“We don’t! We can’t just assume she overdosed. There might be more to it, who knows? I know I feel like I’m nowhere near finished with this.”
“Stay in touch. And, Rose, not that I think it will , but if you get in over your head….”
“I’ll swim. You deal with Marshall at your end. I’m sure he’ll be in touch.” Rose looked up to see a detective from the CID floor striding towards her, her press pass in hand. “I have to go, Dad.”
“Stay in touch!” Her father repeated, knowing that she’d be disconnecting the call abruptly.
“I will,” Rose promised, and then rang off, slipping her phone into her jeans pocket. A young woman walked up to her.
“Hello. DS Harford,” she introduced herself, extending her hand. Rose shook it, then accepted her press pass. “Hardy and Miller are busy at the moment. I believe we have all the information we need. We’ll contact you. I’m sure we’ll have other questions for you, so the DI would like you to stay in town.”
“That was my plan,” Rose confirmed. Harford seemed to be scrutinizing her silently. “Is there anything else?”
“No, not all. Thanks for your assistance so far.” Harford smiled pleasantly but Rose still had the feeling she was under the microscope.
“You’re welcome,” Rose murmured. Her phone began to vibrate, and she had to hold back a groan. She was glad the screen wasn’t visible, because she knew who was calling. She let it go to voicemail.
Harford nodded briskly and walked back to the elevator. Rose sighed and hurried to the front door. When she was outside she pulled the phone out of her pocket.
One missed call, one voicemail. Marshall Burton.
She walked away from the police station and listened to the message. “Call me,” Burton said curtly. She could hear the emotion in his voice, even in such a short message. Dialing him back, she only had a few seconds to reflect on how much she dreaded this call.
“Is it Moira?” Marshall asked.
Rose began to walk. Staying in one place did not help her nerves. “I don’t know. This is what I saw: a body was removed from a dilapidated hut on the cliffside. I went to the police, concerned that it might be her.”
“Oh, God,” Marshall sighed.
“I brought pictures and showed them to the detectives. From their reaction I guessed that it’s probably likely.” She heard what sounded like a choked sob. Rose stopped, closing her eyes, attempting to get some control over her own emotions.
“Did you see her, though?”
“No, Mr. Burton. I didn’t. I wasn’t allowed.”
“I’m on my way. My younger daughter Genevieve is staying with Patsy. All they know is that there might be a break in the case and I’m going to go check it out. Don’t contact Patsy,” Marshall demanded.
Rose began to walk away from the station. “I wasn’t planning to. That’s your decision.”
“How did she end up in Broadchurch? Where the hell is that? I thought you said she was in Liverpool?”
Rose continued walking aimlessly as she talked. “I only know that she bought a ticket to Broadchurch within the last few weeks. I don’t know what brought her here, or when she got here. I arrived late last night and was gettin’ my bearings in the town this morning when I saw that the police were called to the cabin on the cliff.”
Marshall responded to Rose’s revelation coldly, “Seems as though there’s quite a bit you don’t know. Maybe we wouldn’t be in this situation if you’d worked faster.”
Rose was gobsmacked.. Knowing the man was grieving and lashing out didn’t help. It stung, and tears were forming in her eyes even as she struggled to keep her voice steady. “We’ve been doin’ our best to track her whereabouts. When Moira wants to disappear she does it well.”
Marshall wasn’t in the mood to debate. “I’ll be there by nine at the latest.” The line went silent as he ended the call.
Before Rose had the time to process the abrupt disconnection, she was thoroughly distracted by walking into something quite solid. Blimey, Tyler, keep your eyes up! Second time today…. she thought, annoyed at herself. It turned out to be a boy, carrying a backpack and talking on a mobile. The boy kept walking, glancing back at Rose.
“M’sorry,” Rose muttered, knowing the boy was too far away to hear. She wasn’t sure if she was apologizing to the boy, Moira, or Mr. Burton.
Rose spoke aloud, not caring if people passing by thought she was barmy. “Well, I’m not gonna sit around idle until he gets here. Got work to do.” She stopped on the street, looking up and down. “Where would Moira go?” Opening the map she’d found earlier in the day, she began to walk toward the first of the three pubs she’d planned to visit.
The boy ducked between shops, swearing. “I have to go,” he said tersely. “No, you can’t call me later. I’ll….I’ll call you, okay?” He disconnected without saying goodbye. How bleedin’ stupid was that, it coulda been somebody I know...I can’t do this anymore. It’s just too complicated. There was a bin, just a couple of steps away. He could chuck the mobile in, and…..
No. Can’t do that. Just have to be more careful, that’s all.
He looked at the mobile again, glanced at the bin, then shoved it into his backpack. He peeked around the corner of the building, then took off running. He wondered when things had ever gotten so complicated. And if life would ever be normal again.
Not that it ever had been normal to begin with.
The Chief Superintendent demanded a press conference, despite Hardy’s insistence that they wait. “Look, we have someone coming who will possibly identify the body, and if it’s a positive ID we can announce it then,” Hardy argued.
“They’re already speculation on Twitter and Facebook. People are bringing up the Latimer case. When is this person coming in?”
Ellie answered, “Around nine tonight.”
“That’s still hours of speculation. We need to be in charge of this narrative, not social media. Get some information out within the next hour,” he ordered, then he retreated to his own office.
Hardy rolled his eyes, running his hand through his hair. “Alright then,” he muttered. He raised his voice then, commanding the attention of the room . “Gather ‘round.” Once the team of detectives had assembled, he began his briefing. “We have an unidentifed female, mid to late twenties. No visible trauma at the scene. What do we have on the syringe we found?”
Jonas spoke up. “It’s being tested for drug residue. Seems pretty open and shut, though. Drug overdose.”
Hardy’s glared at him. “Good job solvin’ the case. I asked for the facts, not commentary. I know how this looks. Addict wanders off to an abandoned hut and overdoses. But. We do not know if that is the case, and we’re sure as hell not writin’ this woman off. I don’t care what the circumstances are. We’re not givin’ her any less than our best. Understood?”
Chastened, Jonas nodded. “The lab should have somethin’ within a few hours.”
“Miller, address situation at the scene,” Hardy directed.
Ellie looked at her notes. “The front door was secured, according to the crew foreman. I think Katie has more information on that.” Harford nodded. “The point of entry appears to be the cliff side facin’ window, which had been boarded up. It suggests there was more than one person on the scene. The victim would have had to get a hammer, pry the boards loose and then get in.”
Katie chimed in, “The foreman, Dale Ellis, told me that the glass had been removed from the windows three days prior to the demolition. The boards were put up then. The door was dead bolted, and secured with an estate agent’s lock on the knob. He had the key. They entered the hut, according to Ellis, noticed the window first, then the body. They immediately stepped back out and he initiated contact with emergency dispatch.”
“I saw footprints outside the open window. There’s only three to five feet of clearing between the hut and the edge of the cliff. That suggests to me that whoever removed the boards was familiar enough with the hut to know that it was dangerous to walk outside that window,” Ellie added. “Also, there was a bit of fabric stuck to an exposed nail.”
“No one on the crew had clothes that color this morning,” Katie informed her.
“What about the crew?” Hardy asked. “Are they local? Who are they?”
Katie took over this part of the briefing. “All local, either from here or Weymouth. There was four on the crew preparing the hut for demolition. I mentioned Dale Ellis, the foreman. He says he was at home all the night before, with his wife and two boys, and they all turned in early because they were all exhausted from a road trip. The other three are Nash Byrnes, the ‘kid’ of the crew, Kevin Lawry, and Colin Smith. Lawry was at the King and Crown the night before, says he saw Nige Carter there and he’d vouch for him, along with Lawry’s girlfriend Mina Brooks. Brooks and Lawry went back to his place at the caravan park afterwards. Smith and Byrnes were apparently together, playin’ chess at Byrnes’ mother’s house in Weymouth.” Hardy’s eyebrow raised. “Permission to follow up?” Katie asked.
“Quite right,” Hardy said. “Your priority is this case, unless we have another break-in.” Katie nodded in understanding. “Follow up on the alibis and have a report later today.”
“Yes, sir,” Harford responded.
“We’ll check the cctv and make a timeline,” Ellie suggested. “We’ll at least know when she left the King and Crown.”
“You take that. I’ll work on the briefing I have to give in….” Hardy glanced at his watch. “Forty-five minutes.” Nodding decisively he added, “if any messages come through, if anyone comes in with information relevant to this case, I want to know. Understood? A message wasn’t passed on to me last night. A call from an unidentified woman. Could have been our victim. That will not happen again. And as usual, no talkin’ on social media. No discussin’ anythin’ with reporters. Period.” His glare swept around the room, driving his point home. When he was satisfied that he was understood, he strode to his office. There was a pause, and then the room sprang to life again.
It didn’t take long for Ellie to rough out a timeline of the woman’s trip through town. Hardy joined her at her desk, and watched her click through video clips. “So...the camera outside the King and Crown captures her around half nine. The next one at 9:35, and so forth up the road until she appears in the car park at 9:55.”
“When does she make the call?” Hardy asked grimly.
“9:47,” Ellie answered, knowing better than to argue with him. He’d already decided that the message he hadn’t received was from their victim. Trying to convince him otherwise would be futile. He’d probably be right, anyway, she thought.
“Let’s go back in time. See if we can’t get her on camera before she enters the King and Crown,” Hardy requested. Ellie began to scroll through the different camera view when her phone began to buzz. She glanced down at it, hoping she could ignore the call. Recognizing the number, she swore colorfully under her breath.
“I gotta take this, Hardy. It’s Tom’s therapist,” she explained, shrugging. Hardy rubbed his eyes tiredly and waved her off. She grabbed her phone and walked briskly away from her desk. Hardy sank down into her chair, squinting at the computer screen.
He rewound the video to a half hour before the woman exited the pub. (He tried not to call her Moira in his mind, since they didn’t know for sure. But he was all but convinced that the picture Rose the reporter had shown him was the poor woman on the slab downstairs.) He rolled it back another hour before he hit pay dirt. She was there on the screen, in black and white, shoulders hunched, stopping briefly in front of a post box. Hardy sat up, leaning in closer to the screen. He rewound the video a few seconds. “Fan-bloody-tastic,” he muttered. “Jonas! Find out when the mail’s collected from the post box outside the King and Crown!” Jonas looked at him dubiously, but realized it was in his own best interest to comply.
Miller was coming back, her brows knitted together, frowning. She was barking orders into her phone. “He has no screen time. He does his chores, eats, and goes straight to bed. I will deal with him when I get home, Dad, but you have to back me up!” She cut off the call abruptly. “My older son is a shit,” she told Hardy, almost conversationally. “He skipped his therapy session, and I know bloody well that Dad won’t enforce any punishment I give him. S’like having three bloody kids.” Hardy watched her tirade, eyebrows raised. “And don’t worry, m’not leavin’. I’ll just let him stew on what I’ll do about it when I get a chance to go home.” She rubbed her temples tiredly.
“M’sorry,” Hardy murmured, really not knowing what to say at all.
“S’not your fault. Did ya find somethin’?”
“Erm...yeah, looks like the woman might have mailed a package from the post box by the pub,” Hardy told her. You take a look at that, I have to go finish writin’ the world’s shortest press release. Due on camera in fifteen minutes.”
Ellie stared at the screen, not wanting to see any pity in Hardy’s eyes as he looked at her. Her problems were her own, and they couldn’t interfere with the investigation. After a few seconds, Hardy retreated to his office. The reporters were beginning to gather outside for the press conference.
Chapter 6: Chapter Six
After a setback in her investigation, Rose encounters Hardy again.
Thanks to the wonderful Rose—Nebula for all her help!
After ordering a pint and a basket of chips, Rose settled into a table at the King and Crown, close to the door where she could watch customers enter. She’d already visited three pubs, and this was the only one where she’d bothered to order food. She looked at the clock, suppressing a groan. It was only half five on one of the longest days of her life. Moira had been in one of the other pubs, but the bartender hadn’t been able to tell her anything. The other two had been washouts, and she’d need a taxi to get to the one after King and Crown.
The pub was all dark wood tables and booths, dimly lit, with a long bar as the focal point of the room. The bartender drew beer from the shiny taps as a television droned away over his head. It was showing a replay of a football match. The bartender was chatting with a couple of men sitting on stools. He seemed pretty familiar with the customers, leading Rose to suspect these were regulars. The bell over the door rang, and a large, bald man walked in. One of the customers at the bar called out “Nige!”
She watched him cross the room then returned to her chips. Her ears perked up when one of the men by Nige said loudly, “Well, I heard it were Joe Miller they pulled outta that hut.”
“Offed himself, I heard,” another one of them said.
“Bollocks, Sam,” the bartender offered his commentary on the situation.
Rose’s eyebrow raised.
“Coulda been Mark, you know. He tried it once before.”
Nige snapped, “Ain’t him, he rang me this mornin’.”
“S’good. That poor wife o’ his been through the wringer, she has.”
Nige straightened up, a full head taller than Sam. “Yeah, don’t pretend you know what Beth’s been through. Not your business, anyways.” He seemed to shrink in Nige’s presence.
“Shut up, the lot of you,” the bartender barked. He pointed his remote at the TV screen, where DI Alec Hardy was standing outside the Wessex Police Department, looking somber. The room quieted as Rose stood up and wandered closer to the bar to hear what he said.
“We’re addressing today’s events to end speculation and false information. Today, the body of a young woman was discovered in the Briar Cliff cottage by a demolition crew preparing it to be torn down. The identity of the woman is being withheld pending identification. If anyone has any information relevant to the investigation, please contact the Wessex Police. We will release information as soon as we have some answers. No further questions will be taken. Thank you.” Rose watched him turn away from the camera. In the background, she could hear voices shouting questions at him, completely disregarding his request to end the conference.
“See, weren’t no man in that cabin,” the bartender scoffed. Nige rolled his eyes and asked for whiskey and wandered off to sit at a table alone.
The tipsy patron closest to Nige opined, “As usual, Shitface ain’t tellin’ us nothin’.”
“Told us it weren’t no man in the cabin,” Sam said.
Shitface? Is that what they call Hardy? Bit of a knob but I wouldn’t go that far, she thought. “Erm….hello, wonderin’ if I could ask for some help,” Rose said. Four pairs of eyes gave her the once over. She took a deep breath and continued on before anyone could comment. “M’lookin’ for a friend of mine. She said she’d meet me in Broadchurch but I can’t get in touch with her. I know she likes this place, so…wanted to see if she’d been in recently.” She pulled out her phone to pictures of the photos she’d given to Hardy. “Her name’s Moira.”
The men each took turns looking at the photos. “She’s been in here every night for the past week,” the bartender said. “When she leave she says she’s meetin’ someone.”
“Well, she’s never mentioned that to me...I mean, there was that bloke Mike, but….” Rose trailed off, waiting for them to fill in the blanks.
The bartender shrugged. “Lotsa Mikes around here.”
The patron who’d been regaling the men with his absolute knowledge of all things police procedural, snorted, “Can’t walk two feet wit’out trippin’ over a Mike.” The other two men found that hilarious.
“Hope she’s okay. She’s real friendly, but not a slag, y’know?” Sam told her, leaning into her personal space. Rose instinctively leaned in the opposite direction. She raised her eyebrow. Great that you could vouch for her character, she thought.
“Yeah, not like you lot didn’t try to pull her,” the bartender scoffed. “Glad you weren’t successful or else your wives would object.” Rose hid her smirk. “Now, Nige, over there, got turned down last night, after chattin’ her up for almost a solid hour.”
“Had he tried before?”
“Nah. He just started comin’ in regular again.”
She looked over to Nige, who stared at his whiskey mournfully. Wondering if there was something to that she resolved to speak to him next. Then more out of curiosity than anything (or so she told herself) she asked, “You seem to be familiar with the detective on television. You have plenty of nicknames for him an’ all.”
The bartender rolled his eyes. “When he first got to town he was a bit of an arse.”
“A bit?!” the patron next to Sam exclaimed.
“He’s been more than a bit to you ‘cause your kid was nickin’ tractor petrol, Carl.”
“I’d imagine Nige Carter knows him the best of all,” Sam suggested. “Himself was smack in the middle of that poor Danny Latimer murder case and Hardy gave him a rough time. Hardy’s all business, not too friendly.” Rose nodded.
“S’pose he’s good enough of a bloke. He helped out Trish, y’know,” the bartender interjected. Carl snorted derisively.
“Well, thanks,” Rose muttered, wandering away from the bar. She grabbed her basket of half-eaten chips and her pint and approached Nige’s table. “This seat taken?” She asked.
Nige looked up, blinking slowly, as if he couldn’t believe his good fortune. “Hullo.”
“Hi, m’Rose. I need to talk to you about a friend of mine. M’lookin’ for Moira Burton. I think she might be in some trouble. We were supposed to meet up in Broadchurch, and I can’t find her. Your friends over there said you spoke to her last night.”
Nige deflated a little bit. “Who are you, and how do you know Moira?” he asked defensively.
“I said I was her friend.”
“I say I don’t believe ya.”
Rose pressed her lips together. She absolutely refused to flirt with him just to get information, so she was straightforward as she could be. “I’m a reporter, workin’ on a missing persons story. I know Moira’s family. They’re desperate with worry.”
Nige raised an eyebrow, then shrugged. “You wait a bit longer and she might be in, and you can ask her yourself.”
Rose sighed. “We both know that probably won’t happen. I need to fill in the gaps in her story. You talked to her for a long while last night. What did she tell you?” Nige contemplated his whiskey for a few seconds. “M’ scared for her,” Rose murmured. Her voice prompted Nige out of his self-absorption.
“I don’t know where she’s stayin’ but I do know she’s been here a couple weeks. Thing is, she told me the the same shit story you’re sayin’. Lookin’ for a friend. Said she came here to play detective.”
His comment about playing detective rankled her but she chose to ignore it. “Did she tell you her friend’s name?” Rose asked.
“Lily,” Nige answered. “You don’t look surprised by that.”
Rose shook her head. “M’not. But...did she show you the tattoo on her arm? Lily died. A day out of rehab. Why would she come here to look for her?”
Nige shrugged. “S’what she told me.”
“Did she say where she was stayin’? Was it with someone she knew or at a hotel?”
“Was tryin’ to get her back to my place. Didn’t talk about hers.”
Rose pressed her lips together in frustration. Fishing a pen out of her bag, she muttered, “Thanks for all your help.” She grabbed a napkin and began to write. “This is my mobile number…”
Nige smirked, eyebrow raised.
“....just in case you happen to suddenly remember anything else Moira told you.” She pushed it across the table to Nige, who was busy draining his glass. She stood up, preparing to leave.
“Hey…..if it helps, she said she was gonna call somebody at the police department last night. Then her mobile rang and she got up in a hurry and left.”
Rose took a second to process what he’d just told her. “Okay. Thanks. If you think of something I need to know, call me. Any time.” As if on cue, Rose’s mobile started to buzz. She glanced at the screen to see Pete’s number. “Gotta take this, thanks. And I mean it...any time.”
She answered her phone, hurrying away from the table to go outside where she could better hear Pete.
“Dad, what’s up?” she said.
“Just an update on Mitchell. He called in a favor and he’s flyin’ into an small airport north of Broadchurch. He’ll be there within an hour. And he wants to meet you outside the police station when he’s done.”
Rose took a deep breath. “Okay.”
“He’ll call you when he gets in.” There was a pause then Pete asked, “So, do you think it’s..”
“Yeah, Dad, I do.”
“Oh, Rose. You okay?”
“M’not the one who probably has lost a daughter.”
Pete sighed. “You know you don’t have to be tough for me, sweetheart. I didn’t expect for you to have to deal with this.”
“We both knew there’d be a good chance we’d have to deal with exactly this, Dad.” Pete didn’t argue. He really couldn’t deny that she was right.
“Now, when all this is over, I want you to take as much time as you need. Take a holiday there in Broadchurch. Leave the investigation to the police now, Rose,” Pete directed. Rose couldn’t promise that she would, so she remained silent. And Pete had no illusion that her silence implied that she agreed with him.
Hardy took off his glasses. He rubbed his eyes, exhausted from watching the same loop over and over. They’d taken the CCTV back even farther, trying to see the woman on screen before she mailed whatever she’d put in the post box. The post had been collected, and sent off to be processed. It was well on its way to its destination, so that was likely a dead end. They’d caught a glimpse of her, before she’d reached the box, with a legal sized envelope in hand.
Before he could contemplate what was in the envelope, his phone began to buzz on his desk. He glanced at the screen and his heart lurched a bit when he read Tess’ name on the caller ID. He grabbed the mobile.
“Alec,” she began. Hardy hated hearing his name coming from her lips. His name, in that tone, was never good news. He took a deep breath, bracing himself for whatever she had to say. He mentally raced through all the possible disasters Daisy could have encountered and every one of them ended with her disappearing into thin air.
“What’s wrong with Daisy?” he demanded.
“Jesus, Alec, I just wanted to let you know she’s here, since you didn’t bother to check in.”
Alec glanced up at the clock. 7:45. He winced. “We’ve been workin’ all day, Tess. A case came up.”
“I know, I saw it on Twitter. Daisy’s been stroppy all day. She’s locked herself in her room, after raiding the refrigerator. We wanted to take her out to eat but she won’t come out.”
“You n’ Dave?” He couldn’t help himself.
“What business is it of yours?” Tess snapped, confirming Hardy’s suspicion.
“Daisy mentioned him, is all. She’s not real pleased about it. Probably wants some time alone with her mum without company, I’d guess.”
“Maybe she was hopin’ her dad would check in on her,” Tess shot back.
Alec took his glasses off, rubbing tired eyes. “Look, we’re not helpin’ her at all, actin’ like this.”
“I’m not the one who brought up Dave.”
He sighed. She had a point. “I’ll call her as soon as I can.”
“Sure, when you have some time for her,” Tess interjected.
He pressed his lips together, biting back a retort. He hoped that the last part of Tess’ statement was just an opinion of hers and not what Daisy actually thought. “You know I will. I’m glad she got there safely,” he muttered. Hearing a knock at the door, he looked up to see Miller, who appeared exhausted. He was grateful to have a reason to hang up on Tess.
“Gotta go,” he told his ex-wife and he disconnected the call.
“Burton’s arrived,” Miller informed him. Hardy sighed as he stood. He adjusted his tie to look more presentable, then followed Miller out of the office. The knowledge that he was likely about to change this man’s life forever weighed heavily on his heart.
They were introduced to Marshall Burton, whose haughty appearance did little to mask the fear in his eyes.
Upon arriving downstairs at the morgue, Marshall Burton discovered that he had good reason to be fearful. Hardy and Miller stood silent as Burton’s tears flowed, his family’s life indeed changed forever.
After an hour of waiting around the area by the police station, in which she achieved nothing, Rose’s phone finally buzzed. “Hello,” she said.
“It’s her,” was his answer.
Rose expelled a shaky breath. “I’m so sorry. I was hoping that it wasn’t.”
He interjected, “Where are you? Did you come to the police department?”
“I’m right outside it.”
Hardy was exhausted and the sun hadn’t yet set. He’d spent fifteen minutes in the morgue with Marshall Burton and then another forty-five in the interview room, trying to piece together what the parents knew. Burton was inconsolable, which was completely understandable. Hardy shuddered, putting himself in the father’s place. It was all too easy to imagine. As a result of Burton’s state of mind he couldn’t get very little useful information out of him. As frustrating as that was, there was nothing to be gained by keeping Burton there.
“He’s stayin’ at the Traders,” Hardy told Miller. “He’s gonna call his wife and I guess they’ll be coming here. And...Evans wants another press conference. I’ve managed to push it off for a couple of hours at least, while Burton contacts his family. I don’t want any leaks. So I’m not briefin’ the team until just before.” Hardy took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes tiredly. “I’m gonna try to slip away and call Daisy before it all really goes to hell.” It occurred to him that Ellie was having her own problems and he asked, “Did you ever find out what’s goin’ on with Tom?”
“I had time to call Dad again and he says Tom’s home. Upstairs playin’ video games. So you can tell he’s followin’ my directions to the letter.” Ellie rolled her eyes. “Why don’tcha get out and get some fresh air and get in touch with Daisy? I’m goin’ home for fifteen minutes, lower the boom on Tom, and come back.”
“Take forty-five. We’ll round up the team then,” Hardy recommended.
Ellie nodded in agreement, then asked, “What did you think of Ms. Prentice?”
Feeling the tips of ears go hot for no reason of which he wished to admit, Hardy grumbled, “Not been thinkin’ of her. She’s a reporter.”
Ellie unsuccessfully hid her smirk.
“You got forty-four minutes now, Miller, don’t be late.” And with that, Miller, still grinning, left the room.
Burton scanned the crowd as he exited the police station. His eyes immediately locked on Rose’s and he strode towards her purposefully.
Before Rose could offer any words of consolation to her client, he extended an envelope to her. “Here is your retainer for the days you worked. We’ll no longer be needing your services.”
Her stomach churned. She’d never been fired from any job before now. Ignoring her own emotions, she said, “Mr. Burton, I would love to have the opportunity to continue to investigate this. I feel that there’s more here than it looks, and….”
He interrupted her. “You’re no longer needed, Ms. Tyler. I’ve already spoken to your father. Perhaps he shouldn’t have assigned this particular case to you. You’re an amateur, and the boss’s daughter to boot. I see now that you’re hardly qualified.” He put the check into her hand. Her shaking fingers gripped the envelope.
“I’m so sorry, Mr. Burton. I wanted to find her and bring her home, maybe help her in some way. I wish this had turned out differently….”
Burton cut her off. “Pardon me, I need to call my wife and my other daughter and break their hearts.” He turned on his heel and walked away, leaving Rose gobsmacked. Her phone began to buzz. A quick glance at it revealed Pete’s number. Unable to talk, she let the call go to voicemail as she walked aimlessly toward the pier, her eyes burning with tears she did not want anyone to see.
Daisy answered on the first ring. “Dad! I saw it on Twitter. What happened?”
“I don’t know yet. We’re workin’ on it. It’s just as well you’re outta town now, darlin’. I’m probably gonna have to put in some long hours. M’sorry I didn’t call before now.”
“You’re busy! That’s why I didn’t text you.” She paused. “Guess maybe I shoulda, just to let you know I got here safely.”
Alec smiled. “Yeah, woulda been nice. Your mum let me know.”
Daisy snorted laughter. “I’ll bet she did.”
“She said you’ve been hidin’ out in your room all day.”
“Bullshit. I’ve only been in here since the arsehole showed up.”
Alec tried not to laugh. “Language, Daisy,” he admonished.
“It’s not bad if I’m tellin’ the truth,” she countered with one of her grandmother’s bits of wisdom. Alec chuckled at that.
“Give your mum a bit of break, or it’s gonna make the time there go that much more slowly. Even if it means going out to eat with….”
“The arsehole,” Daisy supplied.
“Exactly,” Alec agreed. He heard Daisy give a huge, world weary sigh.
“I’ll try, Dad,” she promised.
“That’s all you have to do. Love ya. I’ll be in touch when I can, darlin’.”
They said their goodbyes and he disconnected the call. His quest for some fresh air had lead him to the bench where he and Ellie often sat. It wasn’t empty this evening. He recognized the blonde woman slumped on it. Her shoulders shook, and he realized that she was sobbing. Hardy stopped, watching her for a few second, utterly unable to act.
Hardy had already spent the late afternoon questioning this woman who had the nerve to burst into his CID floor. She’d given good information, that was true, but she had the potential to interfere. To publicize things that were not to be spoken yet. His brain told him to turn around, walk back to the station and get back at it. Leave Ms. Prentice to her own drama.
His heart lead him away from the station, to the bench. He simply could not stand to see her in that much pain.
Rose sank down onto the seat , ignoring the people and the view. The noise of the fun fair provided an irritating soundtrack to the headache that was forming behind her eyes.
The emotions of the day overwhelmed her as her body was wracked with sobs. She missed John at that moment so much that it hurt. She wanted his arms around her, holding her, letting her cry it out. He never used useless platitudes or told her to stop crying. He’d just embrace her and give her a way to ground herself as she worked through whatever was bothering her. He’d rub her back, or kiss her hair and wait until she found her voice. Then he’d listen to her ramble. “John, I bollocked this investigation,” she murmured out loud, not particularly caring if anyone heard what she had to say. “I mean, Burton’s right, I’m an amateur. A little rich girl playin’ detective. Never shoulda tried. I wish I could talk to you. You’d know what to do, what to say….” Her voice trailed off.
Well, I’m on my own now, she mused, and that inner voice did not have the Northern accent she’d come to expect to hear.
What Rose did hear, however, was a Scottish accent. “Ms. Prentice? You alright there?” Startled, she looked up into the brown eyes of DI Hardy. For the first time since she’d spoken to him, his eyes were not hard or cold. He looked genuinely concerned, and kind.
Embarrassed, she rubbed her own eyes fiercely. “M’fine,” she answered.
“I just was over there and saw you, and…..”
“Well, I appreciate you asking,” she told him, her voice gravelly, “but I am okay. I just...had a moment, s’all.”
Hardy stood there, silently awkward. He seemed to have no idea what to say or do next.
Rose spoke up again, “it’s been a horrible day all around. It’s the anniversary of…” She shook her head, not wishing to share John with him. “Like I have any right to make this all about me, anyway. The Burtons lost their daughter. No one is grieving more than they are.”
Advice was not Hardy’s forte, but he made a stab anyway. “Yeah, but you were lookin’ for her, so….”
“And I did a rubbish job,” she mumbled.
“You said that, not me. Didja think you were gonna save her if you found her?”
Rose stared at him. He didn’t seem to be mocking her, so she shrugged.
“M’not meanin’ to be harsh, but...things happen. Horrible things. Don’t think you can’t be upset about them. Might as well let it out. Holdin’ it in doesn’t work.” He rubbed at his chest absently, and Rose raised an eyebrow.
“I take it you’ve been there, then?”
This time he was the one who shrugged. “You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel somethin’.”
Rose nodded. “Thank you, though. I needed to hear that.” She thought for a second and added, “Why are you bein’ so nice to me?”
Hardy started to open his mouth. Only inarticulate sounds came out, so he gestured weakly with his hand. His brain had absolutely no idea where to go next with this. She was attractive, he liked her...but he didn’t have the words to express it at the moment.
Rose smirked a little. “I mean, I thought you didn’t like me. Least that’s the impression I got in the interview.”
He found his voice. “ You seem to be fine.” His ears reddened. Of course, Rose noticed. Flustered, he went on, “It’s your profession I object to...I don’t like reporters, or anybody else, gettin’ in the way of my investigation. We’re gonna need to talk to you again. How long were you gonna stay in town?”
Rose pressed her lips together. There was the Hardy she had grown accustomed to. “It’s indefinite. I’m on holiday.”
“Well….just enjoy your holiday and stay...out of my way, yeah?” That was not how I wanted to say that.
“I won’t interfere, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Rose assured him, her voice taking on an annoyed tone. “You’re makin’ your point, loud and clear.”
Hardy vaguely wondered how he seemed to have gotten off track in the conversation. “Okay, fine,” he said, a bit more forcefully than wanted.
Rose crossed her arms. “Thanks again, I won’t keep you any longer,” she told him, standing up. She began to walk away. Hardy put his hands on hips, sighing.
Rose thought, Wanker, as she walked away. Even if he said what I needed to hear. I don’t know what the hell I’m gonna do now that I’m fired. But if all he’s gonna do is assume I’m gonna interfere…. Her musing was interrupted by her phone buzzing with a call. Rose groaned and answered it. “Hi, Mum,” she sighed.
“Oh, sweetie, I’m so sorry. Do you want me to come there?”
“No, Mum,” she murmured.
Jackie asked, “Are you comin’ home yet? Your dad told me Burton fired you. I know Marshall’s grievin’. But he shouldn’t have…..”
Rose interrupted, “Mum, he’s mad with grief and he’s not thinkin’. If I’m fired, I’m fired. But I’m stayin’ in town. The police might need to talk to me again and…..”
“Don’t you go snoopin’, now. You’re not involved in this anymore.”
Rose didn’t speak. Her mother groaned, and Rose thought her mother had just realized the futility in making her request. “I’m on holiday now, Mum. Isn’t that what you all wanted?”
“Be careful. Please. I couldn’t stand it if something happened to you too.”
Back on the CID floor Hardy only had a few minutes to wonder what exactly had gone wrong when he had tried to help Rose. Evans wanted another statement to the press. They debated on whether they should reveal that another person might have been involved. In the end, they settled on mentioning a person of interest.
Across town, Alec Hardy appeared on the citizens’ television screens for the second time. “The woman has been identified as Moira Jane Burton, aged 27. We are looking for a person of interest who might have seen the victim or known of her actions last night. We’re taking no further questions.” Of course, the reporters shouted questions that Hardy would not answer. People watching might have noticed him scanning the crowd, squinting to see a familiar face.
You think Rose would be here for this. Then it occurred to him that he hadn’t seen her at the other conference. He was sure he would’ve noticed Rose. He filed this information away to consider later.
Marshall Burton watched in his hotel room, alone, sobbing after hanging up with his wife and daughter.
Rose watched on her phone. She sighed as Moira’s named was announced, but was shocked by Hardy’s reveal of a “person of interest.”
The men in the bar shook their heads, and discussed how they expected it all along. Nige had another couple of whiskeys.
In the Miller house, a mobile hidden in Tom’s backpack began to buzz . He fished it out hurriedly, and answered it in his closet.
The construction crew watched together. Once again, Nash Byrnes became nauseated and had to retreat to the loo. Kevin Lawry stood up abruptly and left the room, his phone in hand.
In other houses across Broadchurch people tsked and tutted and lamented the bad luck that had once again befallen their little town.
Chapter 7: Chapter Seven
Hardy and Rose are on each other's minds as more mysterious details come to light.
Thanks to all who are sticking with this story! I appreciate your kudos and comments. Also, thank you Rose--Nebula, best beta ever.
Hardy fell into bed late, his mind still whirling, sorting out details of the case. On the surface it looked like the poor girl had gone off and overdosed. Of course that was only the tip of the iceberg. Someone had to have taken those boards off the window. He knew in his gut that it hadn’t been Moira Burton. Someone had been with her. And this someone might have seen her die. Might have caused her death.
And then there was this new woman in town, Rose. He no longer believed her story of being a reporter. He wasn’t sure who she was, but he needed to talk to her again.
His heavy eyelids began to close. She cares, no matter who she is.. Friend playing detective, maybe? Another thought popped into his head, unbidden. It hurt to see her sobbing like that…. His exhausted mind, its’ filters shut down for the night, imagined himself giving her a hug. To comfort her, of course.
Hardy’s eyes blinked open. “Bleedin’ hell,” he muttered. He rolled over onto his side in a vain attempt to get comfortable. His traitorous, tired brain conjured up an image of Rose’s smile. And that’s just the product of a long dry spell. Go to sleep for fuck’s sake! He flipped the pillow over to the cool side and took a deep breath, finally feeling sleep overtake him.
His sleep was broken, his thoughts chaotic, and in most dreams, Rose was a presence, even if she wasn’t visible.
Rose felt utterly defeated when she returned to the chalet. Client distraught, herself fired. And most importantly, Moira was beyond her help. She’d just spent a half an hour on the mobile, breaking the news and attempting to comfort a mourning Jeannine Brewer.
As she collapsed onto the sofa, she muttered, “But hey, at least I’m on holiday.” Chuckling ruefully, she felt the sting of tears again.
“No, I’m so sick of crying today. No more.” Rose rubbed her eyes furiously. “I’m so sorry, Moira.” With those words her resolve crumbled and she began to sob as she had on that bench. “I meant to find you and maybe I could’ve helped you. I wanted to bring you home to your family. I really did.” She still felt slightly mortified over her display of emotion. No one is going through this worse than the Burtons , she mused. I can’t even be angry at Marshall. Pete was furious, but she had told him that he was most certainly not going to protest her firing. She had warned him to drop the subject. Talking to both of her parents had comforted her and exhausted her simultaneously. She rolled over onto her back and stared at the ceiling, trying to calm herself.
No one was going to intervene this time and ask her if she was okay. Her body ached with missing John, but oddly enough she found her thoughts turning to the one person who had tried to reach out to her today. The one person who had told her what she needed to hear at that moment.
Rose remembered Alec Hardy’s advice. Don’t think you can’t be upset about it. Might as well let it out. Holdin’ it in doesn’t work.” She wondered what he had happened to him in his life that would make him pass that wisdom along. He seemed to be quite well versed in the emotions surrounding a situation like this. She supposed that it was the Latimer murder everyone kept mentioning.
In other circumstances, she would have liked to have talked to him, see what other wisdom he had to offer, but she reminded herself that not only had she lied about who she was, but also that he considered private detectives the lowest rung on the ladder. He wouldn’t have spent a second talking to her if he knew what she really did for a living.
And that would’ve been a shame, since what he said had helped. It helped at the time, anyway. ‘Cos here I go havin’ another pity party. Maybe I need another pep talk.
Rose chuckled through her tears. “Yeah, well, that’s not happenin’,” she told herself. Thinking of that brief moment when she had acknowledged that she found Hardy attractive, she spoke more firmly, “Go the fuck to sleep, Tyler.” Usually she only reserved that tone for when she felt it was deserved. It seemed appropriate tonight.
Rose needed to sleep. It was going on half midnight already, and she hadn’t gotten into bed before three the morning before. The beds were both queen sized and they felt too big for her tonight. She considered a moment. Then she shuffled off to the bedroom she’d claimed for herself and pulled the navy duvet off of the bed.
Back on the sofa, she made herself as comfortable as she could, snuggling under the duvet. She turned on her side and pressed her back against the back of the sofa. Maybe she could trick her mind into thinking she wasn’t alone.
Her mind drifted. As she began to doze fitfully, she dreamed in what seemed like short bursts of imagery. And in many of her dreams, the eyes she looked into were brown instead of blue.
His mobile rang, startling Hardy awake. His heart pounded in his chest, but it didn’t hurt as it had on so many nights before the pacemaker surgery. He had often wondered in those days if his phone’s ring would be what sent his heart into an arrhythmia that would kill him. It would either be that or a dream of Pippa in the river , he mused grimly. He’d been visited by a dream of the river in the night, but oddly enough, it had been just Rose walking along the banks.
He had little time to consider that as he grabbed the phone. “Hardy,” he rasped.
It was Harford. Not one for small talk, she dove right in and Hardy appreciated that. “Kevin Lawry from the construction company was arrested for trespassing about fifteen minutes ago. He was nosing around the Briar Cliff hut. Wouldn’t say why he was there.”
“Did he disturb the crime scene?” He thought of the yellow police tape over the boards against the wall and across the window.
“No. He was found a bit up the path beyond the hut. He had to cross the tape to get onto the property, but he apparently didn’t touch the house. It appeared as though he was looking for something. We’ve got SOCO heading up to the cabin to search the area where he was.”
Hardy sat up and glanced at the clock. Six fifteen. “I can be there in twenty. I wanna talk to him myself. Wait, no, I’m headin’ to Briar Cliff first. I want to see if they find anything. He can wait.” He rang off, mentally preparing himself to start another day.
Rose’s back ached from sleeping on the sofa, although she couldn’t exactly call what she’d done sleeping . She’d dozed on and off, having short vivid dreams. John had appeared in some, but thankfully none were a replay of their last moments together in Croatia. Hardy was walking with her on the beach in one dream. He had looked disgruntled and she couldn’t hear anything he said over the sound of the waves crashing on the surf. Then he’d leaned in as though he was about to kiss her, and she had awakened. Her mother loved to try to analyze dreams. Rose thought for a half second about calling her. She could just about hear her mother: So, who is this Hardy? Does he have a first name? Is he fit? She decided she didn’t want that kind of trouble.
She stood, groaning and wandered into the kitchen to make coffee. Once she’d made some toast and poured the coffee, she shuffled back into the living room to look at her workstation.
Rose opened her laptop and checked her messages. There was one from Mickey, saying that he hadn’t been able to track any activity on Moira’s one credit card. They had to assume that she’d paid cash for everything, including her hotel. She imagined that most hotels along the beach would’ve required a credit card fo acquire a room, so she decided to focus on the ones on the outskirts, the ones less likely to think anything of a woman paying cash.
Then, she remembered she’d been fired.
She was no longer employed by the Burtons, no longer needed to track down Moira’s activity. She was on holiday. And at that moment, a holiday was all she wanted. “Hardy can handle this,” she muttered out loud. “He made that very clear. I’ll stay in town, I’ll turn over my notes. Then I’ll stay in Broadchurch for a bit.” That seemed like a very good idea. Then I can decided if this is really the job I want. Maybe it’s time to just break away from the whole Vitex and Torchwood thing and do somethin’ on my own.
Rose glanced at the laptop, her eyes falling on the search bar.
Curiosity getting the better of her, she typed Alec Hardy and hit enter.
Aren’t you nosy, she thought. This time the voice sounded like Jackie Tyler’s.
“Yup, I am,” she confirmed aloud. She put her black, rectangular framed glasses back on and watched the screen.
A scant few seconds passed before a screen full of articles about the police detective appeared on the screen. The oldest ones were about two missing girls in a town called Sandbrook. Rose’s heart broke for Lisa Newberry and Pippa Gillespie as she read the first article.
Pippa’s Body Found….
Rose gasped as she read about Hardy nearly drowning as he pulled Pippa out of the river. Her heart went out to both of them. Of course Hardy had spoken from experience, and not just from the Latimer murder. She scanned over the next few articles, and it only got worse. The case against the suspects was destroyed, Hardy blamed for the failure.
“What’s this…” Rose muttered as she found a link to a story called Sandbrook Tragedy Revisited , written only a couple of years before. It was a Sunday magazine article. Rose leaned in, her reading closely. The story was an interview with Lisa Newberry’s mother. Ms. Newberry looked pensive and tired in the pictures of her taken for the article. She talked of the panic and fear in the first few days of the investigation, her utter devastation when Pippa’s body was found. How she’d hoped Lisa had somehow escaped and was trying to get home, then her acceptance that she’d never see her daughter again. Rose found herself swallowing past a lump in her throat.
Ms. Newberry mentioned Hardy several times. I didn’t believe it, you know. I knew Detective Hardy was doing his best, and to make a huge mistake like losing Pippa’s pendant….it just couldn’t be true. I know the poor man lost his health over it. Rose’s eyebrow raised at the picture of Hardy that accompanied the text.
Hardy looked like he was at death’s door. He was skinny now but when the picture had been taken he looked nearly emaciated. He didn’t have a beard at that point, and his eyes were shadowed with dark circles. He looked nothing like the man she’d met.
Hardy had declined to be interviewed, Rose noted.
Ms. Newberry then dropped what Rose considered a bombshell. Apparently Hardy, after the resolution of the Latimer murder, had taken it upon himself to reopen the Sandbrook investigation. He wasn’t working for Wessex police, oddly enough. The author of the article intimated that Hardy might have lost his job due to a rumored serious health issue.
Rose sat back, contemplating what she’d read. He’d reopened the case. He’d apparently been through the wringer with the Latimer case, and he had done this at the same time Joe Miller had been on trial, and while he himself had been suffering.
He’d made sure Lisa and Pippa got justice. And according to the interview, he’d been successful, and Ms. Newberry deeply appreciated what he’d done.
She considered the article. They had a bit more in common than she thought. Both had unceremoniously lost their jobs, but he hadn’t given up. He’d kept fighting and he’d won justice for those girls.
If he could do that with all the challenges he’d faced, so could she. Moira deserves to have her story told, she thought. “The one thing that’s different is that Pippa and Lisa were part of a cold case. Moira isn’t,” she said aloud.
Do you really want justice for Moira or satisfaction for yourself? She ignored that internal voice that seemed to be wondering if her motives to continue, and possibly get in the police department’s way, were selfish.
She exited out of the story, and reopened the search bar.
There’s more going on here than meets the eye, she told herself. I owe it to Moira to tell her story. I’m doin’ this for her, not for the Burtons. If it helps give them peace, so be it, but I’m not doin’ it solely for them.
Rose began to research budget motels in the area, hoping to find the one that Moria had used. She made a list, complete with phone numbers. Removing her glasses, she squeezed her tired eyes shut and considered her next move. I need to keep an eye on what the police find out, too. Could be that the motel will contact them because she’s left stuff behind. I’d love to see that stuff first, though….
“Yeah, and I’m sure Hardy’s be very willin’ to let me check it all out first,” she said with a sarcastic chuckle. “Well...whatever happens, happens.”
Hardy arrived at Briar Cliff to see SOCO swarming the trail just up the cliffside trail from the hut. He could see Miller trudging up the path just ahead of him. He sped up, his long legs an advantage. Miller looked back over her shoulder. “Did you come straight here?” he asked.
Miller nodded. “Lawry is sittin’ in the nick, refusin’ to talk. No point in goin’ there first. If they’re gonna get my ass out of bed this early, I might as well go somewhere worthwhile.”
Smirking, Hardy said, “That’s what I thought.”
They walked the rest of the way in silence. Hardy thought that it was a sign of her lack of caffeination that she didn’t try to fill the silence with chatter.
Once they reached the SOCO officers, Brian met them on the path. “Still lookin’,” he told them grimly. “What do you think he could’ve been lookin for?”
“Drugs, maybe?” Ellie specuated. “Lawry knew about the hut, knew what was going to happen to it. So he lures her there….”
“And covers it by being one of the group who discovers her body the next day? And on top of that, is moronic enough to get caught snooping about the place the day after that?” Hardy asked, pacing. “How does he know her? What’s the connection?”
Ellie shrugged, yawning. “Get some coffee in me and maybe I can help figure this out.” she told him. Hardy smirked.
They were interrupted by SOCO Watson hollering, “Got something!” They turned to see the large man, on his stomach on the ground, arm stretched out towards something below him on the cliffside. He couldn’t quite reach so he scooted dangerously close to the edge.
“Blimey, don’t go over the bleedin’ cliff,” Miller called out, running up the path. Hardy followed.
“Got it!” Watson called triumphantly, pushing himself up with some difficulty.
“You’re a moron,” Ellie told him. “Brilliant work.”
Watson grinned at the praise. He was holding a claw hammer in his gloved hand.
“Okay, now we have somethin’ to work with,” Hardy announced.
They found a bit of wood lodged in the claw. It wasn’t much, but it did match the paint on the windowsills on the Briar Cliff Hut. Returning to the police department, Hardy and Miller requested Kevin Lawry be moved to an interview room.
Lawry fidgeted in his seat as the detectives entered the room. Hardy slumped into a chair, and Miller followed suit. “So. Lookin’ for something?”
Lawry glanced up at him, then averted his eyes.
“Found a hammer on the path,” Ellie informed him. “Well, not on the path, exactly. It was a bit off, down the cliff a bit.”
“Was that what you were trying to find?” Hardy asked.
“Can’t say,” Lawry finally muttered after a long pause.
“Well, you basically just did say,” Ellie said with a smile. “Why were you looking for it?”
Lawry shifted in his seat, his whole body tense.
“Answer the question, Lawry. If you didn’t have anything to do with Moira’s death, there’s nothing for you to worry about,” Hardy reminded him. “Why would you be looking for a hammer?”
‘You’re assuming that’s what I was looking for,” Lawry countered.
“Stop evading the question and give us a straight answer,” Hardy ordered.
“It was for work,” Lawry answered.
“For work? Okay, yeah, that I could believe. You’re working in construction, you’d have tools,” Ellie started. The worried wrinkles on Lawry’s forehead began to smooth out as he relaxed.
Hardy observed Lawry. The man looked as though he was mentally congratulating himself on getting off a particularly odious hook. He glanced back at Ellie, who appeared cheery. Hardy knew better.
“But,” she continued, “you hadn’t started workin’ on the hut yet. According to what you and your coworkers told DI Harford, you’d just arrived. You didn’t even realize the windows were uncovered until you stepped into the room. So why would you be looking for tools if they were still on the truck?”
Lawry went pale.
“Anything you’d like to tell us?” Hardy asked.
The suspect expelled a huffy breath, clearly agonizing over what he should say next. Hardy and Miller waited, and finally Lawry spoke. “I was texted by a number I didn’t know and I was asked to leave a hammer by the hut.” He spoke this in a hurry.
Ellie’s eyebrow arched. “Really.”
“That’s the story you’re going with. You didn’t know the number, but yet you still left the hammer by the hut,” Hardy murmured, his mild tone masking his anger at the man’s stupidity.
“That’s what happened,” Lawry affirmed.
“Horseshit,” Hardy barked.
“It is!” Lawry hollered back.
Ellie couldn’t help smiling. “Thanks for the confirmation. Now. Care to revise your story, Kevin?”
Kevin banged his fist on the table. “I’m not bleedin’ lyin’!”
“Why on earth would you do the biddin’ of someone you don’t even know? Kevin, you could end this whole bloody ordeal right now and just tell us the truth,” Ellie told him.
Hardy asked, “Do you know Moira Burton?”
“I never met her.”
“Did you ever see the dead woman before yesterday?”
“Why did you leave the hammer, Lawry?” Hardy persisted.
“I told you. I got a text. Don’t know if it were from a woman or a man.”
Hardy couldn’t hide his disgust as he rolled his eyes. “We’ll check your mobile records.”
Lawry sneered. “Have at it, detectives.”
Hardy and Miller glanced at each other. Obviously they would be getting no more information from Kevin Lawry at this point.
Rose stepped out of the shower to the sound of her mobile ringing. She wrapped the towel around her body and stepped over to the phone on the vanity. Glancing at the screen she saw that Jeannine Brewer was calling. She sighed. “Hello?” she said.
Jeannine appeared to be just as distraught as she had been the night before. “Rose, oh my God…” she began, her voice breaking.
“What, Jeannine? What happened? Are you okay?”
“I just got mail, from Moira. A legal sized envelope.”
“Have you opened it?”
“Yeah. It’s a receipt from a motel, and some pictures and...a note, telling me that she was looking for Lily’s killer.”
Rose’s eyes widened. “Read the note.”
She heard Moira take a shuddering breath, then she began to read. “‘ Jeannine, love, if something happens to me I want you to know what I’m doing. Lily was murdered. I’m telling you this because I know I can trust you. I really liked you and I’m sorry I disappeared on you. Anyways, she met a bloke. That’s the bloke who killed Lily . He’s from Broadchurch, in Dorset. That’s where I am. ’”
“Does she say anything else?”
“Yeah,” Jeannine answered. “She says, ‘ I don’t want to say anymore to you, because I don’t want you in danger. I left information at the Weymouth Traveller Inn. Let the police know.’”
“Well, why didn’t you call the police?”
“You’re the detective lookin’ for her! I thought you’d want to know! Don’tcha?”
Rose paused before she spoke, sighing. “Yeah, I do. I’m not officially on the case anymore, though. I’ll have to turn it over to the police…..”
“You gonna take a crack at it first?” Jeannine asked, sensing Rose’s hesitation.
“Little bit,” Rose confirmed. “Anything else?”
“She just repeats she’s sorry for disappearin’ and she values my friendship. And that she’s usin’ heroin again.” Jeannine’s voice broke on the last.
Rose groaned. “So can we believe anythin’ she’s told you?” She put the phone on speaker and snatched her dressing down off the hook. As she put it on, she directed, “Take pictures of all the things she sent and send them to me, then mail me the contents of the envelope. Send it overnight. I’ll pay you back for it. You do realize that the Wessex Police will probably want to talk to you?”
This time, Jeannine groaned. “Well, that’s fine, I suppose. No way around that, is there?”
“Nope, I’m afraid not,” Rose told her. “What do you know about Lily? Did Moira tell you any more about her?”
“Other than that she died right after she got out of rehab, and they were in for the same reason.”
“Not even her bloomin’ last name?” Rose asked, her voice rising in pitch.
“I’m tryin’, Rose,” Jeannine protested.
“M’ sorry...I’m just frustrated, that’s all. I don’t know where to even begin, without knowing more about Lily. Maybe that’s what I’ll find at the motel. I don’t know. Thanks, Jeannine. Look, if you find out anything more, don’t hesitate to call. Just send me those pics, okay?”
“I’m sorry,” Jeannine repeated.
Rose sighed, “No, really, thank you for what you’ve told me. Look at it this way, if she was in danger she probably didn’t want you to know more than you needed to. Thanks.”
She extricated herself from the call, and waited for Jeannine to text the pictures. The first picture to come through was her registration at the Weymouth Traveler Inn. She used the name Moira Reilly, and Rose wondered if Reilly was her mother’s maiden name. It gave her a little jolt to realize she was doing the same thing, except she had Torchwood to make her alias credible and Moira had been flying by the seat of her pants. Well, we do have that in common, Rose thought grimly.
She scrolled through the other pictures. They really showed nothing but a dilapidated house, one of many in a row of old houses near the bay. The next picture was apparently the backside of the first photo, with 1103 Bay Close scrawled in ink.
Rose’s hand was on her phone. She had every intention of calling the police. But the need to figure it out on her own was too strong. Against her better judgement she put the phone in her pocket.
I’m gonna call them. I just want to see that hotel room first, she told herself.
This time, instead of walking, she called a taxi.
“Is he really that much of a moron?” Ellie grumbled.
“Apparently. Do you know anything about him?”
“Well, I don’t know if he’s always been a moron or if this is a recent development….” Ellie began. Hardy gave a small smirk. “....but I do know the family. His brother was an EMT. Worked with Joe for a while. His brother, Mike, actually came to our house a few times. He left town ages ago. Kevin’s about five years younger. Nice enough kid. I think I remember him bein’ in the nick once for public intoxication.”
“Do you think he’d have it in him to harm Moira?” Hardy asked. “Does he have a drug problem too? Maybe they both go there to use together and she overdoses? He leaves her body behind?”
“To show up at work in the same place the next day?” Ellie asked incredulously.
“Maybe he didn’t know she was dead when he left her. Maybe she was unconscious and he panicked and left her there. Or...maybe he has nothin’ to do with it other than openin’ the house for Moira and whoever was with her.”
“Leadin’ us back to square one. We need to find out if Kevin has some clothing that matches the fabric we found on the windowsill.” Hardy nodded as Jonas poked his head in.
“Knock first!” Hardy barked. Ellie rolled her eyes.
Jonas was too excited by his news to notice that he’d just gotten a reprimand. “The manager at the Weymouth Traveler Inn called. Said he has a room rented out to a Moira Reilly, and that the occupant hasn’t returned for two days. She paid with cash, enough for a week. She saw the press conference and thought she’d better call.”
“Oh, really, now,” Ellie said, quite interested. Hardy sat up as well.
“She left all her things behind. They’re still in the room. Permission to follow up?”
Hardy gestured between himself and Ellie. “We got it.” Jonas visibly deflated and slunk out of the room. Ellie raised her eyebrow. “What? I don’t want him fucking it up! Let’s go.”
“You’re gonna give him a complex,” Ellie admonished.
“When he proves to be less of a knob, then maybe I’ll trust him,” Hardy said as he put on his suit jacket.
“You were a knob and people gave you a chance,” Ellie reminded him. “Still are, actually.” He pointedly ignored her comment, striding past her. He heard her sigh as she followed him.
Chapter 8: Chapter Eight
Rose and Hardy meet again when he catches her investigating Moira's death.
Thanks to Rose--Nebula for all your help!
Rose had appealed to a grandmotherly housekeeper outside of room 118, claiming to be Moira’s sister, who was desperate to find out anything about her lost sibling. Rose reminded her of her youngest granddaughter. Plus, she felt a bit like Miss Marple, aiding in a mystery, so she had let Rose in. Rose had assured the housekeeper that she’d keep her identity a secret. And she’d also assured her that she planned to go straight to the police if she found anything of value. Maybe we could work together on this, stranger things have happened….
Rose entered Moira’s room. The Weymouth Traveller Inn was nothing fancy, but it was clean, and a much better hotel than she had expected it to be.
Moira’s belongings were strewn about the room. There was a rucksack on the desk with clothes hanging out of it, on top of some papers. Digging into her purse, she pulled out some latex gloves slipped them on. She carefully picked up the papers. They were emails Moira had printed off, both sent to her from the same address: @scouserRed25.
Of course, it’d be too easy for this one to just have his name as his email address, she thought to herself. “Someone from Liverpool? Or just a fan of the football team?” she said out loud.
She read the text of the first one: I’m sorry about Lily, but you’re harassing me. Her own demons did her in and you know it. No signature.
The second one was one sentence. Moira, fuck off, because you’re going to meet the same bad end. “Well,” Rose murmured. “So, scouserRed25, was that a threat? Nice work, sending threatening emails. Good on you for printin’ them out, Moira.” She wished that it had helped. That Moira had just taken these to the authorities. “Did you think no one would believe you? Is that why? I believe you. I know it’s too late for you, but I believe you.” She photographed both emails, then sent a quick text to Mickey. Micks, do you think you could trace the email on this back to the person who sent it? Or a location? Anything?
He texted back immediately, Blimey, Rose. I’ll try. So you’re still on the case then?
You’re fired, you know.
I do know that. Rose rolled her eyes. And I’ll discuss what I found with the police.
Mickey typed back, Don’t roll your eyes at me. Just be careful. Don’t get in over your head.
I plan to be very careful if I go swimming on my holiday.
It didn’t take long for a response. Smartass. Rose smirked and typed back a thank you, then turned her attention to the mysterious scouserRed25. “Football fan...maybe it’s the number of his favorite player or something,” she muttered as she picked up Moira’s rucksack.
Rose was distracted with pawing through the bag’s contents, so she didn’t hear the voices in the hall. She jolted in surprise as the door swung open, dropping the rucksack. Looking up, she spied an equally shocked Hardy and Miller staring back at her.
“Bloody hell, you scared me,” Rose blurted, realizing two things simultaneously: there was really no good way to spin this, and that she was in trouble. Huge trouble. Here I am askin’ why she didn’t go to the police and here I am, not doin’ much better. Face the music time, Tyler. Hardy looked furious, but Rose didn’t expect any less.
Hardy glared at Rose, growling, “You ought not go skulkin’ about where you’re not wanted, Ms. Prentice, unless you want to be arrested. Explain yourself.”
Ellie sighed heavily, rolling her eyes. She was disappointed in Rose, and slightly afraid for her, as well. “Rose, c’mon, what do you think you’re doin’? This is ridiculous.”
“Ms. Prentice, you’re gonna need to hand over what you’ve been snoopin’ through,” Hardy demanded. “You are fucking up this investigation, and it stops now. Hand over what you’ve found and get the hell out of here.”
Rose’s lips pressed together. Suddenly, she felt exhausted. Tired of the lying and the subterfuge, she raised a hand to stop Hardy’s tirade. “Just...no...look,” she stammered, mentally wincing at her lack of eloquence. Taking a deep breath, she confessed, “My name is Rose Tyler, I’m not a reporter, I’m a private detective. I was hired by Marshall Burton to find his daughter.” She reached into her purse and fished out her Torchwood identification badge.
Hardy didn’t speak. Ellie took the badge and inspected it. “Torchwood?” she asked.
“I’ve heard of it,” Hardy said tersely. His eyes were hard. “Private detective. Well, that’s fan-bloody-tastic.”
Hearing that word, fantastic, spoken in that way set Rose off. “I haven’t been tryin’ to get in your way. I’ve been trying help find Moira. And when it became bleedin’ clear that she was beyond my help, I decided I’d try to figure out what happened to her because I think she deserves some justice.” Her voice began to break, and it made her even all the more furious. She wasn’t sure who she was furious with, exactly, Hardy or herself. “I was wrong, coming here. I should have called you first…”
“You’re right, you should have,” he growled. “What were you thinkin’? Were you thinkin’ at all?”
“I was thinkin’ of Moira and how her parents deserved the truth, that’s all!” Her eyes narrowed. “It was a crappy idea. A really shit plan. And I know that. But it’s no different to what you did when you investigated those girls in Sandbrook.”
A heavy silence fell.
“If you have anything else that I should see, I expect you to meet Miller and me back at the police station within the hour,” Hardy demanded. “We’ll also need to print you for elimination purposes. You need to go. If you’re late, we’ll send a car to collect you.” He left out the phrase, in handcuffs , but it was made abundantly clear.
Rose had no more to say. Ellie handed her the identification badge back. Rose nodded and stepped out of the room.
Hardy stood stock still, hands on hips. His expression was inscrutable. Ellie finally broke the silence. “Best get to work, then.”
Outside the closed door, Rose winced, leaning against the wall. She couldn’t see into the window next to the door, since the drapes were drawn. “How stupid was that,” she chastised herself. She felt like a child, being sent to her room for defiant behavior. Not the best thing you coulda done, I suppose, a northern voice whispered in her mind. Still, start as you mean to go on, and all that. That was the problem, though. Rose wasn’t sure how she meant to go on. Now that her identity was out, and Hardy had absolute proof that she’d lied, he’d never believe anything she’d say. So any half-formed idea she had of the pair of them working together to solve this case were likely dashed. And all because she’d made the decision to come there first to prove she could do the job. Sighing, Rose took out her phone to call a taxi back to the chalet. She had to get her case files in order.
They called SOCO in to collect the evidence they found, and within the hour room 118 was clear of Moira’s belongings. Hardy said very little during the process, which concerned Ellie. She drove on the way back to the station. “Okay, do you need to talk about it? Get it out before you take it out on everyone in the office?” she finally asked.
“What?” he muttered.
“She had a bit of a point, you had a shit plan. I believe I told you that already, though, a while back,” Ellie pointed out.
Hardy crossed his arms, raising an eyebrow at Ellie.
“Was a shit plan that worked out, though,” she continued. “The difference between Rose’s shit plan and yours is that at least yours was a cold case, not in the middle of an active case. That’s where she screwed up.”
At least now Ellie was saying something that he could get on board with. “Too bloody right! And if this turns out to be a crime, and she fucks it up, I’ll have her head. This is why I bloody hate private detectives. They bloody poke their noses in where they do not belong. This case better not be compromised.”
“No, it better not be. She made some really awful choices here,” Ellie interjected. “But.”
“But what? You’re not gonna defend her, are you?”
“Hardy, I think her heart really is in the right place. She might be going at it all wrong, but...I really do think she is trying to do right by Moira. Like you wanted for….”
“Don’t compare the two,” Hardy growled.
“....Lisa and Pippa,” Ellie continued.
“This is not the same. I said back there that I’m familiar with Torchwood. A couple of their detectives interfered in a case in Weymouth a year or so back, and they lost the bloody conviction! I heard all about it from their DCI. Then Torchwood got bought out by the guy on TV..the one with the awful health drinks. You know him?”
“Vitex? They’re not that bad. Sometimes the strawberry kiwi one is the only thing I can into Fred when he’s on one of his food strikes. But Torchwood is owned by…..Oh! Pete Tyler. The ‘ you can trust me on that ’ guy? She must be his daughter.”
“What the hell does a health drink shill think he’s doin’ runnin’ a detective agency?”
“Beats me. Maybe it looked like a good investment,” Ellie suggested.
“Or maybe he just had a fantasy of bein’ Sherlock or Poirot or some such nonsense. And then there’s Rose Tyler. She’s not snoopin’ around for Moira’s sake. She’s a rich daddy’s girl tryin’ to prove herself,” Hardy scoffed.
“So you think she doesn’t care about Moira, it’s all about makin’ herself look good for her rich dad? That’s dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Don’t be a twat, Hardy.”
“Don’t hold back, Miller. Tell me what you really think,” he muttered, looking away. He watched the ( stupid bloody ) scenery go by. He already felt embarrassed for having criticized Rose in that way, but Miller didn’t need to know that. His mind fixated on the sight of Rose sitting on the bench sobbing, which further dissipated his fury. She certainly seemed authentic enough then, he thought. “Okay, so she wasn’t tryin’ to impress Daddy. But she could really screw this case up with her interference and it needs to stop. I cannot be trippin’ over her all the bloody time.”
“No, you’re right about that,” Ellie allowed. Her eyes shifted briefly to glance at Hardy, who sat with arms folded, his expression just shy of pouting. Unable to resist smirking, she continued, “What do you think of Rose researchin’ you? She obviously did, y’know. Otherwise she wouldn’t have known about Sandbrook.”
Hardy ignored the comment as they pulled into the car park by the police station. Ellie made no effort to mute her chuckle as she parked the car.
Rose made a stop at the chalet to pick up the case notes on her desk, taking the time to send the photos she’d taken of the motel room to Mickey. He called her back immediately, and she informed him of her latest misadventure. He hadn’t made any progress on tracking down scouserRed25. “Should I even continue, considering you might get arrested for obstruction of justice or somethin’?”
“M’not gonna get arrested.”
“Maybe not. Your mum’ll drag you home before that happens,” Mickey snarked.
“Oh, nice, Micks. Threaten to tattle on me to my mother. I’m gonna cooperate with Hardy. And you’re gonna keep your mouth shut. Right?”
Mickey chuckled, “Whatever you need me to do. You want Jack to come there? Help out? And who’s Hardy?”
“No, I don’t. I’m handlin’ it myself. If I need help I’ll call Jack. And Hardy’s the DI in Broadchurch. He’s a right arse, and a bit of a hypocrite. Doesn’t like me encroaching on his territory. And he did the very same thing, for the very same reason, a few years ago. You know that murder case in Sandbrook a few years back?”
“No,” Mickey replied. Rose made a frustrated sound.
“Two girls disappeared? The case went cold? Well, Hardy was the investigator in the original and he took it upon himself to get justice for those girls. Completely unauthorized, and apparently he was seriously ill at the time. He went out on his own to do it. How’s that any different from what I’m doin’?”
“How do you know so much about this Hardy bloke’s career? Thought you were tryin’ to figure out what happened to Moira Burton? Just what makes him so interesting, hmmmm?”
Rose pressed her lips together. The best thing to do in this situation, she decided, was to pretend he’d never said it. “So….as soon as you have the situation worked out with the email, get in touch, okay? Thanks, by the way….”
Mickey began to laugh. Many years of knowing Rose Tyler made him completely aware of what she was doing. “Listen to you, all shifty. I wanna hear more about this Hardy. Haven’t heard you go on about a bloke in a while.”
Mickey sneered, “Do you have a crush?” Then, more kindly, he added, “Hey, we’d all be relieved if you did, by the way. It’d be nice if someone could make you smile….”
Rose did not want to have this conversation, particularly not right before heading into another confrontation with Hardy, in which fingerprints would be taken. Her voice wavered as she cut Mickey off. “Will be in touch. Bye.” She disconnected the call. On top of everything she had going on, she did not need Mickey’s insinuations.
Even if she had a suspicion that he might be right.
This time when Rose arrived at the police station she took time to properly check in at the front desk. She was sent up. Apparently they were waiting for her. This revelation did not make her feel any less anxious.
She was first greeted by a detective named Jonas, who informed her of the need to take fingerprints for elimination purposes. “I really didn’t have time to touch much of anything in the room. And I did wear gloves,” Rose commented. “M’not tryin’ to argue, it’s just….maybe I could save you lot some time….”
Jonas directed her toward a PC, saying, “Hardy’s orders, miss.”
Rose nodded. The young PC guided her through the process of being fingerprinted, and although she knew she was innocent, she still felt as though she was being singled out as a suspect. Her brain knew that it was to eliminate her from anyone else who might have come to that room, but her heart sank a bit, knowing that in Hardy’s eyes she probably was just a step above a criminal. Then the Jackie Prentice in her (and there was quite a lot of her mother’s attitude there) made her straighten her back and square her shoulders. She might have bollocked things up by going to the inn, but she’d be damned if she’d let Hardy make her feel guilty about it. He likely did no different trying to help those girls.
Her attention was immediately diverted to the commotion coming from the opening elevator door.
“And we need to find her phone. More than likely that was her trying to get in touch with me. It fits, with the timing and all. Do we know anything about what was in the syringe? The lab needs to speed it up. We have no idea what caused her death. You get on that, Miller, and I’ll….” Hardy’s voice trailed off as he locked eyes with Rose, who stared back as she wiped the fingerprinting ink off her fingers. “We need to trace that email address, too,” he directed. “But first I need to have a discussion with Ms. Tyler.”
Rose took a deep breath, cementing her resolve. She would not let him intimidate her. She stepped forward, trying her best to exude confidence as she told him, “I have my case notes, if you’d care to review them with me.”
Hardy raised his eyebrow, crossing his arms. Rose noticed Ellie muttering something to Jonas before joining them. “Jonas will track down the lab information. I think we’d better go to an interview room. Shall we?”
They entered the first available room, and Rose took a seat. Hardy and Miller sat opposite her. Adopting the air of a professional doing a presentation, Rose opened her files and began to sort through them. She’d printed off pictures of what Jeannine had sent her. “I thought we should start with what I received last night, from a friend of Moira’s. Her name’s Jeannine Brewer, and she worked briefly with Moira. They became friendly, and I suppose Moira looked at Jeannine as sort of a confidant…..”
Hardy listened to Rose’s speech, half- infuriated by the fact that she was conducting this interview as if they were working together. He was also in awe of her confidence, but he couldn’t allow that to get in the way of what needed to be done. “Ms. Tyler!” he finally interrupted her. “You seem to forget you’re here because we ordered you to come. That you’re here because you’re a bloody nuisance and a hindrance to this investigation. You sweet-talked your way into a possible crime scene, you pawed through evidence, and now we have to take the time to process your fingerprints. We don’t have the resources and we don’t have that kind of time.”
“And I apologize for that. I should have come to you first.” Rose’s voice was calm but her hands were shaking. She folded them and put them in her lap, knowing well that she probably just drew his attention to them.
Ellie cut in, “Now that we’ve established that, why don’t we use the time we do have wisely. What do you know about this friend of Moira’s?” Hardy shot a quick glare in Ellie’s direction, but she ignored it.
Rose took a deep breath. “Jeannine worked briefly with her at the Cavern Club. Moira seemed to trust her right away, took her with her when she got the lily tattoo. It wasn’t long after, that Moira was fired after she got into it with a tourist at the Cavern. So Moira went to work at a dive, the Buoy. She met some people there, and from what I gathered, she thought that she’d met the person responsible for Lily’s death. Maybe she went to Liverpool to find that person. She never named the bloke, though. That email in her room was the closest thing I could find about a possible identity.”
“So you think Moira was playin’ detective?” Hardy prompted.
Rose’s eyes narrowed. She was dangerously close to losing her temper. “You know, I’m not gonna waste my breath trying to justify my own existence. I get what you’re insinuatin’. Yeah, she probably was. And she got in over her head. Let’s just get that thought out there. Now, are you finished mentally comparin’ the two of us so we can get on with the rest of this?”
“I’m not the one who brought it up,” Hardy said with a bit of a smirk.
“Oh, bloody hell,” Ellie muttered. “So what exactly brought you to the inn?”
“Jeannine received a legal sized envelope in the mail, sent to her by Moira. It arrived this morning.”
Hardy dropped the smirk immediately upon hearing this. He looked at Miller, who sat up straighter at the news. “Okay, now we know what she was mailing on the CCTV feed.”
“I think it was an insurance policy of sorts,” Rose conjectured. “But she didn’t send enough information to endanger Jeannine.”
“We’re gonna need to have Jeannie…” Hardy began.
Without thinking, Rose corrected him, “Jeannine Brewer.”
Hardy glanced at her, but didn’t argue the point. “So she tried to call here, most likely, and she tried to let this friend in on what she’d found. Did she mention anyone else who might know about all this?”
“She mentioned one person. Someone named Mike Collins, a person she met at the Buoy. She sent a picture but it was such poor quality, I doubt you’d be able to use it. I cropped him out of the picture I gave to you.”
“So….Moira follows the guy she thinks has killed Moira to Liverpool. Then….dies in Broadchurch? Why does she even come here? Does the bloke have any ties to the area, then? Do you know any Collinses, Miller?”
“No, not from around here. But then again, who knows. Might be some family who moved into town that I don’t know. S’ been known to happen.”
“This was in the envelope,” Rose told them, pulling up first the picture of the house, then the picture of the address scrawled on the back.
“1103 Bay Close,” Ellie read. “That sounds somewhat familiar, but I can’t think of why. May I?” She took Rose’s phone and scrolled back and forth between the two pictures. “Oh! Got it.” She glanced at Hardy, frowning. “That’s the childhood home of Kevin Lawry and his brother, Mike.”
Hardy jumped up unexpectedly and began to pace. “Michael Collins...Mike Lawry, under a fake name, maybe? That would explain Kevin, maybe, why he’d leave the hammer for someone to use to take off the boards. Where’s Mike been lately? I know you said he’s been out of town, Miller. Do you know where?”
“I haven’t seen or heard from Mike in ages. He was in the group of Joe’s friends that cut me out during the trial,” Ellie told him. An awkward silence fell.
In that moment, Hardy realized what he’d just inadvertently revealed to Rose. It had come about as naturally as talking to any of his detectives. “You’d best keep this to yourself. Do not investigate what you’ve just heard,” he warned Rose, who had to expend considerable effort to keep from rolling her eyes.
“Point taken,” she stated flatly.
“What else have you got?” he demanded.
“I met a bloke at the King and Crown who tried to pull Moira. Nige Carter. Do you know him?” Ellie and Hardy glanced at each other. Both breathed identical long-suffering sighs.
“I take it you do, then,” Rose said with a wry grin. “He talked to Moira before she died. She told him that she was lookin’ for Lily. Which made no sense since she was already dead. That’s what made me think she was doing some investigating of her own.” She omitted the part in which Nige had referred to Moira as “playing detective”, since Hardy would have a field day with that knowledge.
Hardy muttered, “Ugh. He’ll be fun to talk to. Okay. What else?”
“Well….the email address. You know, scouserRed25? I heard you mention that you wanted it traced.”
“Did I?” Hardy countered.
“You were a bit loud.”
Ellie pressed her lips together, amused, but it didn’t quite muffle her snickering.
Rose observed Hardy, who abruptly looked down at the papers on the table. She thought she saw a bit of a smile that he was trying to hide. She bit her lip to mask her own amusement.
Rose noticed that Hardy’s eyes were drawn to her lips. She saw his ears pinken slightly as he prompted, “You were sayin’, then?”
“I have someone on that. Mickey Smith at Torchwood. He’s brilliant with technology. He’s been at it for a couple of hours now.” Rose couldn’t resist smiling, just a bit smugly.
“Well, Torchwood isn’t chargin’ us for the service,” Hardy shot back.
“Wasn’t plannin’ on it,” Rose counted.
“Anything else you need to tell us, Rose?” Ellie asked with a sigh.
“I’m havin’ Jeannine send me the contents of the envelope. She also mentioned that in the letter Moira sent, she told her that she was using heroin again. That’s what both she and this Lily person were in rehab for.”
“Do you have a last name on Lily? We’re gonna need to follow that up,” Ellie asked.
Hardy interrupted before Rose could answer. “Do you already have someone on that, Ms. Tyler?”
“Twat,” Ellie muttered under her breath. Rose couldn’t disagree with that assessment.
Rose shot a glare at Hardy and directed her reply to Ellie. “No, I don’t, unfortunately. I thought, well, at least until I talked to Nige, that the Lily tattoo was just a memorial for a lost friend. I didn’t think….” She caught Hardy raising at eyebrow. His slight smirk sent her temper boiling. “Look, I have apologized for muckin’ about in your case. Remember, before it was your case it was mine.” Hardy began to protest, but Rose barreled on, “I’m new at this. I’m gonna bollock things up, like I did today. But I am tryin’ to do my best to find out what happened so Moira gets some justice. I got fired last night.” Rose let that sink in. “I’m on my own, just like you were when you solved the Sandbrook murders.”
“I wasn’t alone. I had Miller.”
Miller looked very much as if she would have liked to have been left out of the discussion. “Yeah. But we were on our own. Like Rose is.” Then to Rose, she said, “The difference is that our case was cold. This one isn’t. Your interference could screw up the chance we have for a conviction, if this turns out to be a murder. If you really want to help, then turn over all your evidence, and leave it to us.”
Rose closed her eyes in frustration. “That’s what I’m tryin’ to do! And might I point out, you did get your conviction for Pippa and Lisa. You’ll get it for this, too. I wanna help, in whatever way I can. I feel like I owe it to Moira. If I’d just been a little quicker putting the pieces together in Liverpool. If I’d just gotten here sooner, she’d still be alive….” Her voice broke at the last, and she slumped in her chair. She was furious with herself for crying in front of them. Damned if I’m gonna let Hardy have the satisfaction of seein’ me cry.
Despite his anger, Hardy’s heart went out to Rose. Blimey, I know how she feels. If I’d held onto that pendant myself. If I’d known what was going on under my own roof…..
He glanced at Ellie, and he supposed that she was thinking something quite similar about her own situation with Joe.
“Ms. Tyler,” he began. His anger had dissipated and he spoke gently. She looked up at him in surprise, her eyes filled with tears. “I can’t even begin to tell you how to let yourself off the hook for this. We solved the Sandbrook case but it’s always still there in the back of my mind. This is what I have to tell myself at times….You didn’t cause her death. You did the best you could with what you knew. So hopefully, that can be a comfort.”
Rose’s lip still quivered, trying to hold back the tears. “M’sorry about the lies. If I had to do it again, I would have come straight to you,” she murmured.”
“Wish you had, too, but...we’ll work with what we have, Ms. Tyler,” Hardy told her. She was still shocked by his kindness.
“You’ve seen me in tears twice now, you might as well call me Rose.” She smiled ruefully.
“Rose. Okay.” He nodded in agreement. But then his eyes narrowed a bit, and he said, sternly, “Anything else you find, Come straight to us. No more snoopin’. I’m still not pleased with the Lyon’. You’re off the case, right?”
“I suppose I am,” she agreed. “I’ll let you know what Mickey finds out. I’d start with Marshall, if I were you, about the rehab. They checked her in. He’d know where she was, and maybe even about Lily. If I find out any more I’ll be in touch. Am I needed any more?”
Hardy shook his head. “Not at the moment. Let us know if you plan to leave town.”
Rose smiled. “I’m on holiday. I’m not leaving any time soon.” She stood up then and walked to the door. “Thanks for not arresting me.”
“Don’t give me a reason to, okay?” Hardy told her.
With that, she left the room. Hardy began to gather the papers she had left behind. He looked up at Miller, about to ask why she wasn’t helping. He paused, taking in her expression. Her arms were folded, her eyebrow raised.
“What?” Hardy demanded.
“Seen her cry twice, now have you? And she’s not Tyler, she’s just Rose. You wanted to hug her before she left, didn’t you?” Ellie smiled, infuriatingly cheery.
“We’ve wasted enough time,” Hardy groused. “Bloody hell, stop smilin’ at me like that.”
“Bet you wouldn’t mind if Rose smiled at you,” Ellie sing-songed.
Hardy snapped the folder shut more forcefully than necessary and bit out, “Don’t be a child, Miller.” Then he left the room, but he could still hear Ellie’s laugh behind him.
Chapter 9: Chapter Nine
Rose discusses the case, and Hardy, with Jack, and comes to an understanding with Ellie. Hardy interviews Moira's parents about Lily, and meets Jackie Tyler.
Thank you so much Rose--Nebula for helping make this better, and for helping me finally learn to spell "shepherd." ;)
Ellie’s continued chuckling had put Hardy in a foul mood as they exited the interview room. To his mortification, he noted that Rose was still on the CID floor. His ears reddened, and of course Ellie, right behind him, noticed this. “Ah, I needed a good chuckle,” she murmured.
“Glad I can provide some entertainment,” he muttered back.
“I’m just sayin’...when all this is over and if she’s still in town….after all, you’re not on Tinder anymore.”
He growled, “And to think I was furious with her for wastin’ time and resources. Get to work. Why is she still here?”
Ellie rolled her eyes. “Maybe because we were right behind her….” There was no more discussion on the subject as Katie Harford intercepted them.
“The toxicology report on the syringe and the initial results on Burton’s autopsy are in,” she announced quietly, mindful of Rose’s presence in the room.
Hardy nodded towards his office and the women followed. He closed the door behind them, noticing Rose watching from the other side of the window. He closed the blinds to eliminate the distraction. “What?” He demanded.
“She died of a massive overdose of propofol. A pain killer. She was probably unconscious before she hit the floor. Dead not long after.”
Hardy and Miller took this information in. “The syringe?” Ellie asked.
Hardy nodded. “Okay, we’ll need to see if painkiller addiction was part of her problem,” he said.
“The syringe had no fingerprints on it. Suggests to me that whoever injected it had gloves on, or wiped it down. But why would they discard it?” Harford wondered.
“Good question,” Ellie allowed.
“Did they find an injection site on her?”
“Not yet,” Harford revealed. She placed the report on Hardy’s desk.
“We’re gonna need to bring in Marshall Burton. And Kevin Lawry, as well,” Hardy told them. “We’ve had some evidence come up from...an informant.”
Ellie began to open her mouth, to protest the use of the word informant, because she couldn’t think of a reason for Harford not to know it was Rose, but Jonas burst in. Before Hardy could call him out for his rudeness, Jonas blurted, “There’s been another break-in reported, at the gift shop, and the book shop by the pier.”
Hardy groaned. “You and Harford go,” he growled. “Keep me apprised.” The two detectives hurried out. “What do you think the odds of actually gettin’ some more resources for Burton’s death investigation?”
Ellie shrugged. “I think the business association will kick up a fuss about the robberies.”
“And Evans won’t prioritize an overdose very highly, even if it turns out to be a murder.” Hardy rubbed his eyes tiredly. Bleeding hell, it’s already been a long day. “Think I’m gonna let Rose Tyler’s contact at Torchwood track down the email.”
“Huh. Are you now?” Ellie asked, smirking.
“Yup, and you’re not gonna mention it again,” Hardy grumbled.
Rose stayed on the CID floor long enough to see the two detectives rush out. Thinking that she had no more to say to Hardy or Miller, she took the next available elevator downstairs. Once she was outside her stomach growled, and she decided to eat some chips. To her disappointment, the fish and chips stand near the pier was closed. “What’s the point of you,” she mumbled at it.
She walked to the next food stand and managed to procure some chips. She spotted the bench she’d sat on before, when she had been sobbing and distraught. It was empty again. This time she was aware of the surroundings. She watched the sun sparkle on the water and saw the people playing on the beach. Once again the weather was hot, so many people were out taking advantage of the weather. Her observations were interrupted by the sound of her mobile buzzing. She checked the screen, and with a smile, she answered it.
“Rosie,” the American accented voice on the other end greeted her.
“Hi, Jack,” Rose answered, still smiling.
“Talked to Mickey. What the hell is going on?”
“Instead of being locked up, I’m sitting on a bench eating chips. So, all things considered, I’m good.”
“So you’re still on the case, then?”
Rose smirked. “That’s sorta flexible right now.”
Jack snorted laughter. “Hey, if anyone knows flexible it’s me. Your dad’s not gonna be thrilled if you do get tossed in the nick, so tread lightly.”
“Mum’ll make him bail me out, and you know it. Jack, honestly, I don’t know what I’m doin’. I’m stayin’ to see how it all plays out.”
“Sounds like you’re looking for a bit of trouble. You miss that, don’t you?”
She didn’t feel the sting of impending tears, which surprised her. “I do miss it. I miss my partner in trouble. I’ve felt like I’ve had this wound that John’s death caused and it went from painful to tender, and now….”
“You think it might be healing? Oh, sweetheart, I want that for you. And John would, too, so much.”
“Do you think he would?”
“Rosie, I know he would. He’d want you out there, livin’ a fantastic life.”
Rose smiled at the mention of John’s favorite word fantastic. “Trouble is, I don’t know if I’m doin’ the right thing at all. Bein’ a detective, that is.”
“Just take your time. It’ll work out. John would be proud of you.” There was a pause. “Now. About this Hardy bloke. I checked him out.”
“Jack! Why would you….oh, you talked to Mickey. Instead of listening to his gossip, why don’t you see how far he’s gotten with the task I’ve given him!”
The sound of Jack’s chuckle made her see red. “Calm down! Hardy seems to be a good guy. As far as I can tell, the main issue he’s had is with losing the evidence in Sandbrook. But from what I’ve found out, he didn’t lose it.”
“Oh?” Despite her anger she was intrigued.
“It was one of his detectives. He covered for her.”
“Why would he do that?”
“She was his wife. They got divorced soon after. He’s single, by the way.”
Rose could practically hear the insinuation in his voice. “Well, nice to know. How about checking with Mick for me, okay?”
Jack laughed, “Will do, sweetheart. Love you.”
“Love you too, you pain in the arse.” They said their goodbyes, and she disconnected, smiling at her mobile. Her smile faded as she thought about what Jack had told her. She knew Hardy had a daughter. Sandbrook must’ve been a trying time, she thought.
Since there wasn’t much more she could do with the case information she’d turned over to Hardy, deciding on her next move was a bit tricky. She finally decided on checking out the house from the picture Jeannine sent. Really, there’s no harm in that. S’not like I’ll be underfoot.
She opened the photos on her phone and checked the one that showed the address. She entered the address into Maps and found that 1103 Bay Close was within walking distance.
Surprising just about everyone investigating Moira’s death, the preliminary autopsy report was filed not long after they received the toxicology report on the syringe. She’d died following a massive dose of propofol. And not only that, there was the presence of a bruise and puncture wound on her shoulder. “That’s physically impossible,” Hardy pointed out to Miller. “If that’s the injection site, she didn’t do it.”
“There’s no bleedin’ way,” Ellie agreed. “So the person with her does this from behind? Ambushes her? Then that’s murder. No accidental overdose here.”
“Now I really wanna know about this Lily. Did she die the same way?” Hardy supposed. “And why the hell would the murderer do it that way? If she’s still usin’, then why not just hand her the syringe and tell her it’s what she wants? Why even bother to stage it to look like an overdose if you’re just gonna ambush her?” Hardy was pacing back and forth, and Ellie was beginning to get a headache from his rapid-fire questions.
“Is Burton coming in again? Maybe we can get a lead….” Ellie broke off as the answer to her question stepped off the lift. Marshall Burton fixed his glare on the occupants of the room as he strode over to them.
“I’m anticipating this to not be a waste of my time,” he stated grimly.
“We’re hoping the same,” Hardy answered.
Ellie thought she probably should chastise Hardy for his rudeness at some point, particularly to the parent of a victim, but she was having difficulty feeling sympathetic towards Burton. She immediately felt guilty. No one could expect to be at their best in this situation. Thinking of Beth’s plight, she resolved to tone down her dislike of the man in front of her.
“Have you found anything more than that rubbish private investigator I fired?”
Ellie was finding her resolve wavering. “We need to speak with you on several subjects,” she said with a tight smile.
They ushered him into an interview room. Getting right to the point, Hardy told Burton, “We wanted to ask you about the time Moira spent in rehab. Especially this last time.”
“It wasn’t going to work, we could tell. I mean, she came out with all the best intentions. But her best intentions never did amount to much,” Burton began, launching into a ramble. “She makes...made all these promises to Patsy and Gen and me and then she would always break them because she couldn’t say no.”
Hardy nodded. “Where was she this last time?”
“River Bridge in south London. One of the best she could attend, of course. It’s not like we’d given up on her…”
Hardy cut him off. “Did she ever mention a woman named Lily?” Burton appeared surprised by his question.
“Why would you need to know about some addict my daughter met?”
“So you do know who we’re talking about?” Ellie asked.
Burton hesitated for a moment. “Of course I do. When Moira could contact us, it was Lily this, Lily that. Couldn’t shut her up.”
Hardy sat back in his seat, arms crossed. “Oh. I see. Did she mention Lily’s last name?”
“Maybe she mentioned it, but...didn’t really pay attention, did I? Wasn’t important, after all.”
“Well, if you can think of it, it would help,” Ellie said.
Hardy forged on. “Did you realize that Moira told a friend she’d come here hoping to find Lily?”
Burton scoffed. “She was dead already. Why would she come here to find her?”
“We suspect that Moira discovered the person she thought was responsible was here in Broadchurch,” Hardy speculated.
Burton’s face paled. “Lily was a horrible influence on my daughter. I can’t say that I was disappointed that she died. I hoped Moira would do her mourning and let it go, but of course she couldn’t. Once she was stuck on an idea, she wouldn’t drop it.”
Hardy glanced at Ellie. “Seems as though she was more than just some addict your daughter met, then.”
Burton sighed. “I think Moira fancied herself in love with her or some such.”
Ellie spoke up. “Did you have a problem with that, Mr. Burton?”
“I don’t think I like what you’re insinuating. What I had a problem with was Lily Sommers’ influence on my daughter with the drugs. We were trying to get her off of them, not have her meet someone who’d continue leading her down the path to ruin!”
Hardy nodded, then asked, “So you do remember her last name, then?”
Burton pressed his lips together, frustrated. “It just came to me.”
“How do you spell that?” Ellie inquired with a polite smile. “With an O or a U?”
“I don’t bloody know...could be either,” Burton snarled.
“We’ll check both, then,” Hardy said to Ellie, with a glance to Burton, clearly communicating that the comment was directed to him. “We also need to ask, can you account for your whereabouts the day before yesterday, between seven and midnight?”
“What the bleeding hell do I need to establish an alibi?” the angry father bellowed.
Ellie held up a placating hand before Hardy could match his volume. “Everyone will be asked to. Including your wife and daughter. It’s to eliminate people from the investigation.”
“It’s to your benefit to answer,” Hardy told him.
Burton glowered at the detectives, then muttered, “I was at home, surrounded by throng of annoying people bringing us food and intruding on our privacy. My wife called it a potluck , said it was how our friends were supporting us in our time of need. Couldn’t get rid of them.”
“Were your wife and daughter there as well?” Ellie inquired.
“Of course they were. Gen and Patsy love playing hostess, even when they’re upset.”
“Who came to your house?” Hardy followed up.
“How the hell should I remember. They’re Patsy’s friends.” He stared at the wall for a moment, then he startled, remembering, “I can remember one of them. I suppose you’re aware that I hired a private detective.”
Hardy’s eyebrow arched. “We’re aware.”
“Worst decision of my life. She was rubbish.” Both of Hardy’s eyebrows raised with this comment. “I fired her. At any rate, her mother Jackie Tyler and my wife are in the same social circles. She stopped by with some god awful shepherd’s pie. She saw me there. Louder than hell, she is. I know she’ll remember seeing me because she wouldn’t stop talking to Patsy and me. She’s exhausting.”
“Well, that’s a start,” Ellie said with a smile.
For the rest of the interview, Burton seemed to shut down and gave one word answers to most of their questions. Seeing they weren’t going to get any useful information they let Burton go, with a promise that they’d be in touch with Patsy and Genevieve.
“So….” Ellie began. “Interesting.”
“Yeah. At least we have Lily’s name, and the rehab center’s. Makes me wonder about how much more he knows of Lily. Did he have something to do with her dying?”
Ellie thought it over. “To get her away from Moira? Wow, that’s bit of a harsh reaction. Do you think he had anything to do with what happened to Moira? And if he did, why would he hire Rose to find her?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t like him from the beginning, but he seemed genuinely destroyed by Moira’s death,” Hardy revealed. “Looks like I’ll be contacting Rose’s mother.” Ellie smirked.
“Well, you know, it wouldn’t hurt to get to know her family…”
Before she could go on Hardy interrupted, “Actually, you’ll be callin’ her. And also Rose to get her contact information. I’m followin’ up on the autopsy.”
“Oh, Hardy, m’just takin’ the mick,” she laughed.
“I’m aware,” was Hardy’s short answer.
Rose had just finished talking to the elderly neighbor in the house next door to the empty 1103 Bay Close when her phone buzzed. The ID indicated it was the Wessex police station, not Mickey, which frustrated her. “Hello?”
“Rose? Hi. It’s Ellie Miller.” Rose’s heart gave an unpleasant jolt of surprise. “We need to talk.”
Blimey, do they already know I’m snooping around again? “Hi, Ellie,” she answered, hoping she didn’t sound too guilty.
“Got a bit of an odd request for you. We need your mum’s phone number,” Ellie told her.
Well, wasn’t expectin’ that. “What’s goin’ on? Is my mum involved now? I know the families are friends, but….”
“Marshall Burton and your mother were at the same social event a couple of days ago…”
“As in the day Moira died?”
She could hear the smile in Ellie’s voice when she said, “You’re askin’ all the right questions, Rose. Yes. And if you’re assuming that your mother…”
“Can establish an alibi for Marshall?”
“Exactly. Even if the rest of the Burtons back him up, we really need someone not in the family to corroborate the story.”
Rose paused. She could only imagine how Jackie would react to this. “I’ll give it to you, Ellie. But blimey, do you think he could be involved somehow? That’s sick!”
Ellie found herself echoing Hardy’s words, spoken long ago in his room at the Traders: “People are unknowable.”
“Blimey,” Rose repeated. “Well, I know Mum will be honest. And fair warning, Ellie. She’s a bit of a force of nature,” Rose added before telling Ellie her mother’s mobile number.
Ellie snorted laughter. “Maybe I should pass this one off to Hardy after all.’
Rose’s eyes widened in surprise. “Maybe that’s not the best idea,” Rose countered.
She glanced at the house on Bay Close. “So...have you followed up on anything I’ve given you?” she asked.
“I can’t really answer that, Rose.’
“I know….I was wondering if you’d...checked into the house on Bay Close. The one in the picture.” Hearing a world weary sigh from the other end, Rose wondered if Ellie had picked that particular habit up from Hardy.
“I presume you’re either already there. Or, have just left.”
Rose was silent for a second, then she murmured, “Just left.”
“Oh, come on, now,” Ellie moaned. “You’ve got to stay out of it. Really, you must. Although...at least you were honest. What happened?”
“The house is locked up, Ellie. Has an estate agent’s lock on the door. So, I knocked on the next door neighbor’s, and the neighbor, a lovely elderly lady named Rita, told me that the Lawry brothers’ mum moved into a care home fourteen months ago. The house has been up for sale since then. Needs a lot of work. I told her I was a friend of Kevin’s.”
“Of course you did,” Ellie sighed. “Did she tell you anything useful?”
“She told me Kevin and Mike fought constantly, and Mike was a bit of a bully towards his Kevin. So Kevin showed up a lot on Rita’s doorstep. Rita would fix him waffles and Kevin would do work around the house.”
“She thought Mike moved near Liverpool after he quit his EMT job here.”
“Okay. Well, it puts Mike in Liverpool. Whether he’s the person Moira was lookin, for remains to be seen. I really thank you for your information, Rose. And I think I’d love to work with you if you were a cop.” Ellie paused, then muttered, “I’m not telling you to investigate on your own. I want you to stay out of it, for your safety. But….if you happen to hear anything else….”
“I’ll let you know,” Rose said, smiling.
“I am not giving you permission to investigate.”
“Understood,” Rose told her briskly, beginning to walk away from the houses. She repressed the urge to salute the phone. She was fairly sure she’d just been granted permission to follow up.
“Blimey. I need to call your mum now, I suppose.”
“Don’t be frightened. Her bark is worse than her bite,” Rose assured her.
After disconnecting the call, Ellie checked Jackie’s contact number and started to dial. She was startled by Hardy, coming up behind her and saying, “The rest of the Burtons have arrived. Ellie sighed and put the call off until later.
A young man watched as Rose Tyler walked away, talking on her phone. He regarded the woman for a moment, then knocked on Rita’s door. The elderly woman opened it cautiously but smiled brightly once she recognized her visitor.
“Kevin! My goodness! What a coincidence! Someone was just here looking for you!”
“Hi, Mrs. Holland. Really? Looking for me.”
“Yes, she’s just right there….Her name’s Rose Tyler, she said.” Rita began to wave and was about to call out to Rose’s retreating form, but Kevin stopped her.
“Oh, she’s too far away. I’ll catch up to her now that I know she’s here. Almost didn’t recognize her. Rose Tyler, hmmm?”
“She said you haven’t seen each other in years, but she’s in town on holiday.”
“Good to know, Mrs. Holland. I’ll definitely catch up with her.” He nodded in Rose’s direction. “I absolutely will.”
Patsy Burton sat nervously in the interview room, facing Hardy and Miller. “When was the last time you spoke to Moira?” Hardy asked.
“I’m not sure. Weeks ago. It’s not exactly something you write down in your diary, is it? It was before she disappeared. She told me all these crazy theories about Lily Sommers, and how she was going to bring her killer to justice. I thought she was drug addled. I told her to come home. That we’d help her. But she’d have to put aside Lily and really commit to working on her issues. Moira and I had a bit of a row, and she said hell would freeze over before she came home. And she hung up. That was it. The last thing she said to me.” Patsy burst into tears, completely inconsolable.
Genevieve’s interview wasn’t any better. She confirmed the dinner, and the house full of people. “Did she confide in you about Lily?”
“Lily’s all she ever talked about. Dad thinks they were in love. I don’t know about that, and if they were, Lily brought out the worst in Moira.”
“Did she tell you about her investigation?” Ellie asked.
“I wouldn’t listen to her about it. I told her she was being ridiculous. We fought, and I told her to go off and solve a mystery. I told her I hoped it’d make her shut up.” Genevieve paused, then looked at the detectives, horrified. “I killed her, didn’t I! I sent her off to her death. Oh, God!” She burst into sobs, and her mother, who was still weeping, was sent in to try to to console her.
“Why don’t the pair of you figure out why my daughter died instead of harassing us! You’re treating us like we’re the criminals!” Patsy spat as they left.
Back in Hardy’s office, he flopped into his office chair and groaned.
“That went well,” Ellie sighed.
“We’ll probably have to interview all of them at some point. I’m still wondering about Burton’s attitude towards Lily. I want to know more about how she died. Do we have anyone who can look into that?” Hardy asked.
Ellie thought of Rose but didn’t say. “I can check into Lily.”
“You get on that, I’ll see what Evans says about more resources.
Ellie told him, “Evans is going to scale Moira’s case back even more if another business is robbed. Harford told me that the business association has been calling nonstop. So good luck with that.” She got up, stretching, and left the office.
Hardy picked up his desk phone. Calling Evans’ extension, he thought about what he would say. Instead of the well-reasoned argument he thought he’d give, he demanded, “I need more people on the Burton case. I can’t keep havin’ you takin’ my resources away.”
There was a pause on the other end. “Not your call, Hardy. And Moira Burton is not my priority. You’ll have to make do with what you have. I know you’re used to a certain amount of authority around here, but I’m in charge of the resources. And as long as the businesses in town are being disrupted, that’s my priority.”
“A person is dead. Murdered. How can that not be worth the resources?” Hardy demanded. “There’s evidence that there’s more to this than a simple case of an overdose. She deserves our best, and I don’t want to give this case any less.”
“It isn’t your call,” Evans repeated, then disconnected the call.
Hardy wanted to throw something. For a brief second he thought of calling Rose, and putting her on the job. If I keep losing resources…. Then, he shook his head, appalled at himself for even considering it. Needs must, his traitorous mind thought. He was jolted out of his musings as the door opened.
Ellie poked her head into his office. “Hardy, I got another text from Tom’s therapist and I have to go. M’sorry, but I have to get this under control,” Ellie informed. “Then I can concentrate on this.”
Hardy sighed. “Go on,” He told her. With Evans leaching away his resources, he needed Ellie. But he needed an Ellie that could focus, so he waved her off. Ellie nodded and ducked out, only to immediately duck back in.
“I never got a chance to call Jackie Tyler, or check into Lily. Sorry,” she announced, then darted out.
He uttered, “Ugh,” then began to search his notes for Jackie’s number. In a perfect world, the situation would be such that he would have met Rose, maybe gotten up the courage to ask her out, then met her mother. Eventually. Instead, he was calling her to corroborate a potential suspect’s alibi. Fan-bloody-tastic. Sighing again, he entered her number into his mobile and pressed call.
It rang enough for Hardy to expect it to go to voicemail but then a sharp, annoyed voice spoke loudly in his ear. “Tony, Mummy is on the phone, pipe down!”
Hardy suppressed the urge to groan. “Mrs. Tyler?”
“Sorry, sorry. Yes, this is Jackie. Who is this?”
“Detective Inspector Hardy, Wessex Police, Broadchurch division, and I needed to……”
“Has something happened to my Rose?” She shrieked.
Blimey , Hardy thought. “No...no..Mrs. Tyler, Rose is fine.”
“Well, scared me half to death, didn’t you? Wait a minute, is she in jail?”
“No!” Not that the thought hadn’t crossed my mind for a sec… “We need to ask you about a dinner party you attended the day before Moira Burton was found.”
Jackie groaned a bit and rambled quickly, “Oh, poor sweet, Moira. I knew this was gonna happen, I did. I tried to talk to Patsy when our girls were younger. She just wouldn’t hear of it. Of course, I didn’t want Moira to go down a dark path. Rose almost did with that Jimmy Stone. Rose was lucky to get out of that and meet her John, God rest his soul. Was there somethin’ you wanted to ask?”
Hardy pinched the bridge of his nose. “Yes. There was a dinner party at Marshall and Patricia Burton’s house…”
“Well, I wouldn’t call it a party. More like a wake, and we didn’t even know she was dead yet.”
“Did you speak to the Burtons at any length?”
“Well, I brought shepherd’s pie and I got there around sevenish. The room was just a mass of people. Some folks from the garden club, his company, her committees, Genny’s friends...poor Moira didn’t have any friends there but Rose would’ve come if she could. But she was helpin’ in her own way, so….”
Hardy wondered when he’d lost control of the situation. He interrupted, “Marshall Burton? You talked to him?”
When Jackie answered she sounded properly annoyed. “Are you always that rude? Yes, I talked to him.”
“Did he mention anyone named Lily Sommers?”
“He didn’t talk about much of anything other than if he thought Rose was makin’ any progress. I couldn’t answer him, of course. I don’t know anythin’ about her job. I try not to. Thought the whole detective agency idea was daft when Pete suggested it.”
On that point, Hardy found himself in agreement with Jackie.
“But it’s taken her mind off her grief, hadn’t it. I suppose. Anyway, I’m probably tellin’ you too much. S’not like she’s any interest of yours.”
Could debate that point, but I won’t.
“ Well, thank you, erm...you’ve actually helped quite a bit. If we need any other information, we’ll be in touch, and…”
“Say hi to Rose if you see her. She doesn’t call enough. And keep an eye on her. This case has me worried. Whole thing scares me. She’s never been involved in anything like this.”
Hardy stammered out a thank you to Jackie and disconnected the call, utterly confused as how he should have continued. A goodbye probably would’ve helped, he thought with a wince. That’s why Miller should always handle these situations.
He texted Miller, Jackie Tyler confirmed Marshal’s whereabouts. And if we have to talk to her again, you’re calling.
She didn’t respond but that didn’t concern Hardy. He’d gotten his point across.
The rest of the day dragged on. With no call from Mickey or anything else to investigate, Rose toured Broadchurch. By the time she returned to her chalet, tired, she’d logged over 20,000 steps on her watch and her feet hurt. This was more like the investigations she’d experienced before.
Her mother had called, brimming with excitement that she’d had a part in the case. “I shouldn’t be excited by that, should I? I mean, the poor girl’s dead but it was a bit like being on Midsomer. Who’s that Hardy, by the way? Bit rude.”
“He is,” Rose commented.
“His voice is dead sexy, though. Does he have a face to match?”
“Mum!” Rose groaned.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Jackie snickered. “It wouldn’t hurt ya to look, ya know.”
“Blimey, enough! You, Mickey, and Jack have all sorts of advice regarding me and someone they never met. Am I that much of a misery?”
“Yes. It’d be nice to see you smile. M’not sayin’ you should jump on this, or him,” Rose could practically hear Jackie’s wink. “Although with that voice…..”
“.....but maybe it’s time to be open to love again. You’re so young, Rose.”
At that moment, a text message alert vibrated in her hand. Leaving her mother to continue her romantic advice, she glanced at the screen to see a text from Mickey.
Think I have something for you. I’ll call in a bit.
“Hey, gotta go, Mum,” she interrupted. “Mickey has some information for me. I’ll call soon.”
“You’re bein’ as rude as that detective. And you were fired!”
“Bye, Mum. Love to Dad and Tony!” She disconnected the call, rubbing her eyes. There was the beginning of a migraine starting behind her eyes. She really didn’t want to get into any of that with her mum. Hardy was interesting, and attractive, most definitely. And the accent was dead sexy. This is not the kind of situation where something romantic happens. Don’t even know if I’m ready for that yet.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of her phone buzzing. She was relieved to see the call was from Mickey. Finally. The knowledge that they were likely to have a name of a solid suspect sent a thrill through her.
“Mickey! Hi! Found anythin’ out?”
“You get right to the point, don’tcha?” Mickey muttered.
“Oh, come on, cut it out. We really need to get this wrapped up!”
“ We do?”
Rose sighed, bristling at Mickey’s chuckle. “Bloody hell, Mickey. You might not feel that there’s any urgency, but I do. Take it seriously!”
“Okay! Cool down. I do have a name. First of all, both emails were sent from a public library computer in Liverpool. I was able to trace the name, as well. ScouserRed25 is a bloke named Joe Miller. I’ll email you the specifics when I hang up.”
Rose’s heart jolted in shock.
“Does that name mean anything to ya?”
Her shaking hand gripping the mobile tightly enough to hurt, Rose answered, “Yeah, Micks. It does. Thanks….anything else?”
“Not at the moment. I’ll get back to you if there is.”
Without saying goodbye, a shocked Rose disconnected the call. She glanced at the clock. It was already half ten, and suddenly this day, which seemed to have been crawling at a snail’s pace, sped up alarmingly.
Chapter 10: Chapter Ten
Rose's discovery brings the past back to haunt Hardy and Miller.
Thanks to Rose--Nebula for helping make this chapter so much better. Spoiler warning in effect for Broadchurch seasons 1-3. (Although if you're reading this you probably already know.) Possible trigger warning: Joe's crime against Danny is discussed.
Rose dialed the police department only to find out that Hardy had gone home for the evening. She asked for his mobile number, which, after some hesitation, the desk sergeant gave to her. She quickly wrote it on her takeaway napkin.
With shaking fingers she texted him.
This is Rose Tyler. I have some news.
He answered immediately. What?
I’d better tell you face to face. Can we meet?
I’m going in your direction. I’ll be there in a bit. The blue chalet, right? My old place?
Yeah. That’s fine, she texted back.
Then, she immediately texted Jeannine for another copy of the picture she’d cropped. The one showing Moira with Mike Collins. And she texted her a warning: I’ll be in touch soon. Don’t do any investigating of your own. And stay away from Michael Collins. He's involved with Moira's death. She hesitated to give Jeannine any more information for her own safety.
I will, was the response.
Rose was on the computer when she heard a knock on her door five minutes later. She had been researching the Joe Miller case and in the brief time she’d had to read, she was appalled by the story.
She hopped up to answer the door. Hardy had arrived.
He momentarily lost his words at the sight of Rose, in a long t-shirt and leggings, with her hair up in a bun and her black framed glasses on. Focus, he chastised himself. “What’s goin’ on?” he asked gruffly as she stood aside to let him in.
Rose ignored his lack of a greeting. “I had my tech guy working on the email address and he came through for me. He traced the email to a person…” She hesitated.
“Well, obviously it’s a person. What’s with the drama?”
Rose pressed her lips together, frustrated. “It’s someone who has a history here in Broadchurch, and you’re not gonna like what I have to say.”
“Just say it. It’s late,” Hardy demanded.
“Joe Miller. It was traced to him, originating from a library computer.”
Hardy said nothing. He thought, perhaps, he had misunderstood her. Surely she didn’t just say…
“ No,” he stayed flatly.
Rose handed him the printout of the email Mickey had sent her. He pulled his glasses out of his pocket and scanned the paper. It still wasn’t computing. “Who did the research on this?”
“Mickey Smith. He’s the best at Torchwood for tracking down information like that. Are you tracking it down? Do you think you’ll get any better results that I did? Maybe a name you’d like better?” Rose bit out furiously.
Hardy studied the email closely as he muttered, “Don’t have anyone else on it. No resources at the moment.”
“What? So you’re usin’ me, but yet you won’t take what I have to say seriously?”
Hardy growled, “I’m not sayin’ that at all.” He glanced at her laptop, noting the headline of the story: Danny’s Killer Captured. “You’re readin’ all about it and you can’t see why….Jesus, Rose. Do you know what it’ll do to this town if he’s involved?”
“So, does that mean you’re not gonna pursue it?” Rose’s eyebrows shot up.
“Fuck, yeah, I’m gonna pursue it! But it’s gonna rip Miller to shreds, and her kids, too. Beth Latimer’s family as well.” He paced back and forth like a caged animal, running his hand through his hair. “Ugh,” he sighed. “See, it doesn’t fit….Danny was a crime of..” Hardy spat the next word out, disgusted by the thought, “...passion. He killed him in the heat of the moment. This, if it’s a murder…”
“And you think it is.”
“Yeah, now I do. Some information has come to light that...anyways, you don’t need to know…”
“I did assist the police in their inquiries, as you lot like to say,” Rose pointed out.
“It’s a murder. We’re sure of it. She was shot up with a lethal dose of painkiller. And it was physically impossible for her to do it.”
Rose’s jaw dropped. “Okay,” she gasped.
“But the thing is, it was premeditated. The hut was opened with the purpose of luring Moira to her death. Joe doesn’t work that way.”
“Maybe he does now. What happened to him after his trial? How’d he end up in Liverpool?”
“I’ve no clue. He was shuttled off to Sheffield after the trial, lucky he didn’t get strung up by a lynch mob here in town. Miller woulda supplied the rope at that point.”
“Well, people change. He got away with murder that time, with Danny.”
“Too right,” Hardy muttered.
“And maybe that emboldened him. Maybe he saw an opportunity and took it.”
“Meaning he killed Lily too? He was the person Moira was trying to find. I just can’t believe it.”
Rose picked up the photo that Jeannine had texted her. She’d printed it out moments before Hardy had arrived. “Jeannine sent me the original picture. I cropped the man she knew as Mike Collins out, because it was such a bad photo. Is it clear enough for you to tell who it is?”
Hardy took the picture from her. He stared at it for a few seconds. It was hard to see, and the man in the picture had lost some weight, but it was enough for him to say, “It’s him. That’s Joe.”
“Okay….why would he use the name Mike Collins?”
“So he could go on the pull without people knowin’ who he is? Michael is his middle name, I know that. God, I hope it was just adults he was tryin’ to pull.” He shook his head, not wanting to entertain that thought.
“Would Collins be his mother’s maiden name, maybe? It’s becomin’ a common theme,” Rose commented. “I even did it.”
“I’d have to ask Miller.” He took his glasses off and scrubbed his hand across his eyes. “M’gonna have to go over there tonight. I gotta tell her first. She cannot find out about this any other way,” he pointed at Rose in warning as he said it.
“I wasn’t gonna!”
He ignored her protest, continuing on, his accent getting thicker as he became more upset. “And she’s gonna have to come off the case an’ she’s gonna hate tha’. But I canna have her anywhere near Joe because if it turns out to be him, we gotta get a conviction….Justice has to be served.”
“Hardy, calm down,” Rose warned.
“Don’t tell me to calm down! You weren’t here when it all happened. Bloody hell, havin’ to tell Miller that her husband had murdered a child…. and the farce of a trial...Miller kicked the shit outta Joe. The defense used that, and other allegations, and got him off. Beth Latimer and Miller had been best friends and it’s only recently that they’ve really gotten back to that.” Hardy sank down on the sofa.
“It must have been horrible,” Rose murmured, sitting down next to him. “Jus’ got worried about you there for a second. You know I’ve done my research. I don’t know the specifics but I know you were very ill because of...events in your life.”
“M’fine. I have a pacemaker. No more problems there. So don’t worry about it. Has nothin’ to do with this.” He glanced at her, regretting his curt tone. She looked away, seemingly embarrassed. “But I appreciate the thought,” he hastened to add, awkwardly patting her shoulder. Her eyes widened, surprised. He pulled his hand away. “At any rate...I gotta get over to Miller’s. If there’s any chance Joe’s involved with this….”. He stood up and walked toward the door. He looked back to see Rose on his heels.
“I’m goin’ with you,” she informed him.
“The hell you are,” he argued.
“The hell I am. I like Ellie. I don’t know how she puts up with you. She must be a saint. I can explain what I’ve found out and maybe I could offer some support. Maybe she won’t want any comfort, but at least I can try. I guess you’re going to have to go back to the police station, And she can’t go with you.”
Hardy was too exhausted to argue with Rose. His mind was already ruminating on what he’d tell Ellie, and he was gearing up mentally for another round of dealing with Joe Miller.
He waited as Rose shut off lights and gathered her keys. When she was ready he stepped out of the chalet, looking back to see her following him. He glanced at the open living room window and commented, “You’re gonna want to keep that window closed and locked. The screen comes off easily and someone could get in.”
Rose was surprised again by his concern. “Oh. Okay, I’ll keep that in mind.” She closed and locked the window.
They didn’t speak for the rest of the short distance to Ellie’s house.
As Hardy was discussing Broadchurch’s sordid past with Rose, Ellie was the recipient of news she really didn’t want to hear. She thought she should count herself lucky that Tom had come to her at all, considering their past issues. She’d tried to keep from tearing his head off when he’d approached her, mobile in hand.
She sat stiffly in her lounge, facing her teenager.. Tom shifted in his seat, nervously.
“So, he got you that phone. Your dad. He sent it to you.”
“Yes, Mum,” Tom spoke just above a whisper.
“No-contract, burner phone, I assume. That’s what he bought Danny, you know.”
Tom hung his head, nodding. “I know.”
“Oh. Well. That’s bloody lovely. What do you and Dad talk about?”
“He just...just wanted to talk to me when he could. And he knew you wouldn’t let him.”
“Thought you were through with him. Least, that’s the impression I got,” Ellie murmured, trying to keep her temper, trying not to bellow and throw things and scare Tom. She knew how she reacted in this moment would likely affect how Tom confided in her in the future. It was imperative that she stay calm.
It was so bloody hard to stay calm.
Tom’s reply didn’t help matters. “He’s told me he changed.”
Ellie glared at him. “And do you believe him?”
“Would I have come to you if I did, Mum?”
Ellie shrugged. “I don’t know. We’ve struggled with honesty in the past. And in the present. Why did you want me to know about this phone, Tom?”
Tom took a deep, shaky breath, “I….missed him, Mum. I know what he did was bloody awful. And he never should’ve gotten off for it. But...I missed him.”
“And you would go with me to Beth’s for Sunday roasts knowin’ you were contactin’ him.”
Tom hung his head. He nodded slightly. “I had the phone on me once when we were there. He called me. I think Chloe got suspicious but...she never said anything, so….”
Ellie clenched her fists tightly, willing herself to stay seated and listen. To not give Tom a slap. “Why are you comin’ to me now? You’re not thinking if you’re honest I’ll be okay with you talkin’ to him?”
“There’s some, like your granddad, who think I should let the two of you have some sort of relationship, and maybe I should let you make that decision for yourself. But I’m not gonna. Tom, he’s evil. He got inside Danny’s head. He’ll get inside yours. You need to stay away, and I will do everythin’ I can to keep you far from him,” Ellie vowed.
Tom sighed, exhausted. “Mum, would you just let me tell it?”
Ellie wanted to shake him, force him to promise he’d never speak to Joe again. Another part of her wanted to take the boys off in the dead of the night so he wouldn’t know where they were. Because if he’s tryin’ this with Tom now, what’s to keep him from tryin’ it with Fred later…. Instead of telling him all that, she merely nodded.
“At first we were talkin’ about easy stuff. Football. He likes Liverpool’s club now. That was a change.”
“He’s good at switching allegiances,” Ellie muttered.
Her son continued, “So...it was kinda nice talkin’ to him. He seemed like the old Dad. I missed that, Mum. I missed havin’ normal conversations with him.” He sniffed, struggling not to cry.
Ellie’s heart went out to him. When is this nightmare ever gonna end? “Then somethin’ changed?”
“He started callin’ at random times, just this week. Askin’ about what was goin’ on in town. Askin’ me to call him if anything happened. And it wasn’t just once a day. He called me six times yesterday. He got angry because I didn’t have anything to tell him. It scared me.”
“Why would he want to know about something going on in town? Isn’t he still in Liverpool?” Tom looked shocked. “Yeah, I know he left Sheffield. Mark Latimer saw him. Right before he ended up in the hospital a few months ago. Beth told me about that, and about how Mark tried to commit suicide because of it.” She let that sink in. “What else has he said?”
“That’s all, really.”
“Is he in town?”
“How would I know?”
At that, Ellie’s fury boiled over. “You’re talkin’ to him on a regular basis! Is it just on the phone, or have you met up with him in town?”
“No, Mum! I just wanted you to know! I was gettin’ a weird feeling from him and I decided you better know. I don’t want to talk to him, and it’s not because of anything he told me, it’s because I don’t wanna lie to you anymore.”
“That’s good, because I don’t want to be lied to anymore. Especially when it comes to your dad. He’s toxic, Tom. I’m so sorry, but he just is. I don’t want him in your life, and I want Fred to just forget he existed.”
Before she could say anything else, she was startled by a sharp rapping on the front door. Relieved to have an escape, Tom left the phone on the couch and ran upstairs, leaving Ellie to answer the door. She peeked through the side window.
Hardy and Rose were waiting on the porch. Ellie opened the door. “Miller,” Hardy said, in his gruff way of greeting.
“Hello,” Rose mumbled, averting her eyes.
“What are you two doin’ here this late? Elopin’?” Ellie asked with a half-smile. Motioning them in, she glanced at Hardy. His eyes were simultaneously sad and intense, and it made her shiver. She didn’t know if it was because she had just been thinking about Joe but it almost felt as if she was back in the interview room and he was about to call her Ellie and destroy her life. “What’s wrong? Mind you, I can’t take a lot more tonight, after the talk I had with Tom. Joe gave him a no-contract phone and has been callin’ him….”
Rose gasped slightly and stared at Hardy. Hardy shook his head slightly at her and then turned to Ellie.
“Rose is here with me because her tech guy came through with some information about the email. We think we know who scouserRed25 is,” Hardy began.
“Maybe we better sit down,” Rose suggested.
“It’s fucking Joe, isn’t it,” Ellie spat. “That’s the only reason Hardy would look like he’s about to deliver a death sentence.”
Hardy averted his eyes. “Yeah, Miller. Joe, or someone using his email, sent those threatening messages to Moira.”
“And there’s this, proving they met at some point,” Rose added, handing her the picture she’d printed from her phone.
Ellie stared at it in disgust. It was a horrible quality picture but she knew the man in it very well. “Yeah. I recognize him,” was all she could manage. She walked away to the lounge, not concerned if she appeared rude. Hardy wouldn’t care, and she needed to sit down.
“He’s calling himself Mike Collins when he’s on the pull. I know Michael is his middle name, but where does Collins come from?” Hardy asked.
“Grandmother’s maiden name.” Ellie continued to stare at the picture.
“We don’t know for sure if he is the person Moira was looking for, or if he knew the person. I’m leaning towards is , because of the email,” Hardy informed her.
“Not his style, though. Premeditated murder? S’not exactly his MO, is it?” Ellie spoke the last harshly.
“I don’t have an explanation for it,” Hardy murmured. “I’m sorry.”
Ellie laughed sharply, “Oh don’t be sorry . Sorry doesn’t get us anywhere. I don’t like it when you’re like that, all soft. Makes me think the world is endin’. Okay, right, then. He’s been callin’ Tom. The wanker called him six times yesterday. Let’s get Tom down here and see what his bastard father said.” She spoke all of that authoritatively, but Hardy and Rose could see the tears brimming, threatening to breach.
Before she could call for Tom, Hardy intervened, his voice still quiet and steady. Rose watched, her heart going out to both of them. “Miller, we’ll talk with Tom in a minute. I definitely want to know what Joe said to him. But...after this, I’m movin’ you to the robberies and Harford is workin’ this case…”
“Like hell you are,” Ellie growled. “Stop treatin’ me like a feral animal you’re tryin’ to cage.”
“Miller. We want a conviction, right? If he’s involved we want him put away. If you’re on the case, his solicitors will use that. They’ll bring up him bein’ exiled. They’ll bring up you kickin’ the shit out of him. They’ll start up the affair talk again,” Hardy warned. Rose looked at him sharply, but he ignored the question she was dying to ask. “You know I’m right.”
Ellie pressed her quivering lips together and stared at the wall. She didn’t want to make eye contact with either one of them. Of course he’s right. Eventually, she looked away from the wall, catching Rose’s eye. She gazed at her for a second, considering all the options. Turning to Hardy she demanded, “I want to know every fucking detail you find out. Everything.”
“Of course,” Hardy assured her. “You know I will. I don’t want to leave you out of this, Miler.”
“I know you’re right, I do. I want nothin’ more than for Joe to be locked up, away from my children, forever. I’ll do what it takes, and if that means I have to stay away, I will….”
“We’ll take care of this, Miller. Can we talk to Tom?”
Ellie stood up and nodded, walking towards the stairs. She bellowed Tom’s name, then returned to them. The mobile still lay on the sofa, so she picked it up and handed it to Hardy. “His dad sent him that. Maybe we should give him a call.”
Tom jogged down the stairs and into the room. Rose stared at him, recalling the time not so long ago that she walked into something quite solid on a Broadchurch street. Someone quite solid, to be exact.
“Why’d you call him?” Tom asked, nodding at Hardy.
“I didn’t call him. He just showed up. Call your father,” Ellie demanded. She grabbed the phone from Hardy and thrust it at Tom. Seeing no way out of the situation, Tom accepted the phone with shaking hands. “Your dad’s stepped into some more shit. We need to talk to him,” his mother demanded.
Rose was sure she recognized the boy now, as he hesitantly began to dial the phone.
“I never called him. He always did the callin’. He’s gonna know somethin‘ is up,” Tom muttered. He put the phone to his ear, and pulled it away immediately. “His line’s no longer in service.” He held the phone out. They could hear the tinny voice informing them of that fact.
Ellie swore under her breath. “Is he in Broadchurch, Tom? I need the truth.”
“Mum, I told you! We only ever talked on the phone. I don’t know. I think he’s still out of town. He really never said.”
“You said he asked about what was going on in town? What specifically did he want to know? Did he want to know about any of my cases, anything like that?”
Tom shrugged. “He said something about how you’d be at work all the time, and that you wouldn’t have time for Fred and me.”
Ellie swore again, loudly. “Did he mention anything about a woman named Moira? She was found in the Briar Cliff hut. She was killed there.”
Her son’s face went pale. “Did he do it?”
Hardy stepped in. “We don’t know yet. Tom, did he speak to you about her?”
Tom continued in a shaky voice, “He asked me if you talked about your work at home, Mum. I told him you never did before. Why would you start now?”
Ellie took a deep breath, trying to rein in her fury. “You said he scared you. What specifically did he say to scare you?”
“He kept asking about you workin’ late. He asked if I thought you’d solve the case. If I’d heard anything in town. I told him I hadn’t. He wanted me to get a newspaper and I told him to look it up himself on his phone. He said he needed to know what was going on in town now, while I was talking to him. He was really orderin’ me about. He had never talked to me that way before, even when he was angry. So I was lookin’ for a paper and I ran into someone. I think it was you.” Tom nodded in Rose’s direction .
“I think it was, too,” she agreed, surprised that he recognized her.
“I almost just threw the phone away right then. It scared me to think I could get caught with it so easily if I wasn’t careful. I wish I had. But I was still hopin’ that...after whatever this problem he was havin’ was over, that we could still….talk.” Tom sat heavily on the sofa then, his hands covering his face. His shoulders shook, and the sight of her son, weeping like a little boy, made the last of Ellie’s anger with him fade away. She sank down next to him, pulling him into her arms. “He was just usin’ me, wasn’t he?”
“I don’t think it started out that way, but, yeah. He was,” Ellie murmured. “M’sorry, honey.” She looked up at Hardy. “This has to violate the divorce agreement. He was banned from having physical contact with the boys, but really, in this situation…..”
Hardy shrugged. “I don’t know. You contact your solicitor tonight. I’m callin’ Harford back in and going to the station.”
Ellie looked as though she was going to protest, but she pressed her lips together and didn’t speak.
Rose spoke up, “Ellie, I know we just met, but...I was wondering if you’d want me to stay for a bit, just so you’re not alone in all this.”
It was on the tip of Ellie’s tongue to say no, because she wasn’t up to entertaining company, even if Rose was there for support. But an idea occurred to her then. It’s probably a horrible idea, a really shit plan, but needs must . “I’d like that, Rose, thank you,” she said quietly over the top of Tom’s bowed head. Seeing that the situation seemed to be in hand, Hardy stepped into the foyer, his phone pressed to his ear. As he left the room, Ellie continued, “I’m takin’ him up, checkin’ on Fred and then we’ll talk. C’mon, Tom, up you go, love.”
She urged her son to stand and he followed her.
Rose took in the scene, and her heart broke for both of them as a devastated Ellie lead her boy upstairs. Tom was close to a foot taller than her but his expression was that of a little boy who needed nothing more than his mother.
Hardy walked as he talked, Rose’s eyes following him whenever he appeared in the doorframe as he paced back and forth. He seemed to sense her watching, and he glanced at her. She gave him a small smile. He briefly returned it, surprising her. It didn’t really touch his eyes, but at least, it was a smile. He disconnected his call and turned to Rose.
“Thank you for stickin’ around. I have to go into the station. Just….make sure she doesn’t leave to go looking for him or somethin’,” he directed..
“I’ll do my best,” Rose promised.
Hardy’s ears pinkened as he mumbled, “You’ll be okay, gettin’ home? I can’t exactly see you to your door.”
Even as horrible as the situation was, Rose couldn’t help grinning. “I’ll be fine.”
“And...I suppose I should thank you for your help. Just never thought I’d get help from a private detective, y’know.”
“I’m the consulting detective,” Rose said. With a chuckle, she added, “That makes me your Sherlock.” She was surprised to see him smile back, a real smile. It looks good on him, she had time to muse before the reality of the situation hit them. Their grins faded.
“Anyways, be careful goin’ back. Get a cab.” Rose nodded and he let himself out.
Hardy’s thoughts were in a jumble. He wondered about Joe first: How could it be him? It doesn’t fit. That’s not what he does. Whether it fit or not, there was no denying that Ellie’s ex-husband would have to be investigated. The logistics of that were daunting. The Latimers would have to be notified, so they didn’t have to learn about it though the media. They were bad enough when the whole case began. Now they would descend upon Broadchurch like a plague. Ellie and her boys would be devastated, once again, if this turned out to be true. Adding Joe Miller to the mix was like tossing yet another ball at a harried juggler. Or tossing a chainsaw , he thought sourly. It’s bound to get very ugly around here.
He was glad, in a way, that Daisy was out of town. He wouldn’t have been able to give her the time and attention she deserved. He’d need to contact her soon, just to check in. He didn’t want her to feel forgotten.
Hardy’s mind then turned to Rose. He’d been caught off guard by her joke and that slight hint of pink tongue poking out when she grinned at him. Despite the situation, he found himself smiling at the memory. It felt strange, as if the muscles around his mouth didn’t quite know what to do in this new position.
When they’d first met he had been offended by her very presence. Just mere days later he was mooning over the memory of her smile like a lovesick fool. That’s not true, he thought. You were offended by her job, not her presence. From the first time she called you on your bullshit, you’ve been a lovesick fool. Alec Hardy fervently wished he could have met her at a different time, under different circumstances.
Rose’s mind was recalling a smile as well, thinking of how Hardy had grinned at her when she’d joked about Sherlock. The memory of that expression made her want to see how true happiness looked on him. How I’d love to see that. If the circumstances were different….
Feeling fidgety and awkward about being in an unfamiliar house, she stood up and walked a few steps to see some pictures on a shelf crowded with books and board games. There were a couple of baby pictures of Tom, and presumably Fred. Recent photos of both boys with their mother. She caught sight of a small picture in a frame, of Ellie, a brunette woman, and two young boys. The boys were proudly displaying fish they caught. The picture had caught the brunette scrunching her nose, laughing. She took the picture off the shelf to look at it more closely. One of the boys was obviously a younger Tom. The other had dark hair and a brilliant smile.
The sound of Ellie entering the room startled Rose and she put the picture back, embarrassed.
“That’s Beth and Danny in that picture with us. The boys were both nine. Beth’s husband...well, they’re separated now...he took it,” Ellie explained. “That was a good day.”
Rose murmured, “It looks like you were very close.”
‘The boys were best of friends, at least for a while. Beth and I...we’re friends again, now. Took time….” Ellie sighed, sparing the picture one more glance. “I think I got Tom to calm down. I just hope we get through the night without him sneaking out or having nightmares. M’dad slept though the whole thing, and so did Fred, luckily. So what did Hardy tell you before he left?”
“I reckon he’s goin’ back to start figuring it all out.”
“With Katie Harford. Yeah. Well, good that he can work without my emotions gettin’ in the way. He’s right about it, as much as I hate it.”
“So, what will you do, then? Call the solicitor?”
Ellie smirked. “That’s one thing I’ll do. But I have something else I wanna do first. Our superintendent is takin’ away resources from our investigation. Maybe he might make it a priority again if Joe is involved. Maybe not. So, in case he doesn’t….would you be interested in helping me do some investigating?”
“Hardy told me to make sure you didn’t leave the house to go out snoopin’.”
“Bit rich askin’ you to keep me from snoopin’,” Ellie remarked.
“The irony occurred to me. He really doesn’t want you leavin’ to go lookin’ for Joe.”
Ellie raised an eyebrow. “Who said we had to leave the house?”
Chapter 11: Chapter Eleven
Joe's part in Moira's murder is investigated.
This chapter gave me so many fits. That's why it's a week late. I had hoped to post chapter 12 on Monday, but it has taken the crown as "most annoying chapter" from 11. So it will post at some point next week. Thank you very much to Rose--Nebula, for listening to me complain about these two chapters, and for making this one better.
“Who said we had to leave the house?”
Rose blinked. She hadn’t expected that. “What are you planning?”
“Look, I know Hardy and Harford will do a good job. But we can get going before they even get started. I don’t want to waste any time. He’s already moved out of Sheffield. What’s keeping him from leaving Liverpool? I need to know where Joe is, and if he has an alibi for the night Moira died.”
“My friend Jack has a real talent for tracing phones. Maybe he can help with tracing the calls made to Tom’s phone. We could get a location, at least, even if Joe’s cancelled services,” Rose suggested.
“That’s ace,” Ellie beamed, then her face fell. “I can’t afford to hire you, though, Rose. Or your friends. Our budget is tight enough as it is.”
“You’re not hiring me. We’re working together on this,” Rose told her. Ellie started to protest, and Rose put her hand up to stop her. “I won’t hear of it. I’m calling Jack now. If he can’t trace it with Torchwood resources, he’ll...well, let’s just say, he has his ways.”
“Does he now?” Ellie asked, smirking. She felt energized by the thought of getting things done.
“Yeah, and it’s best not to know exactly what his ways are.” She picked up Tom’s phone. A thought occurred to her, and she wasn’t looking forward to having to disturb Ellie’s son. “We don’t have the….”
“Password?” Ellie cut in. She reached into the pocket of her trousers and pulled out a slip of paper with a string of eight numbers written on it. “I demanded it before I left the room. I sympathize with Tom, I do. He’s had a horrible time of it since Danny’s murder. This nightmare won’t ever end for him. But his ass is under house arrest for the next three months over the damn phone.” She groaned, then said, “I’m gonna have to tell Beth, too, before it comes out in the press.” Ellie sank down onto the sofa, suddenly feeling deflated. She handed over the password.
“I’m gonna get right on this, Ellie. I know we can’t change what’s happened, but maybe I can help you get past this part sooner,” Rose told her.
“Isn’t it a bit late for your contacts at Torchwood to be workin’?” Ellie asked.
“Mickey might’ve gone home. But Jack...I don’t know that he ever sleeps. He’ll still be at his restaurant. I can still call him.”
“Wait, he runs a restaurant, has dodgy spy connections and is a detective?” Ellie asked, eyebrow raising.
“Jack of all trades,” Rose chuckled.
Ellie smiled weakly. “Then, I guess we’d best get on with it.”
It took two hours for Hardy to get the new chief to return his initial phone call. Evans wasn’t particularly impressed by the late hour, or by the news Hardy gave him, having not been a resident of Broadchurch during the Latimer investigation.
“People around here were absolutely devastated by what he did. It split the town, and an innocent man committed suicide over being falsely accused. It was a disaster for a very long time, even after the child was buried. And you say you’ll consider the request for resources tomorrow ? And here you were, all worried about a dead body at the Briar Cliff hut and how the media would portray it. Now it doesn’t matter. The media will be all over this, once it gets out that Joe Miller could be involved,” Hardy growled. Harford, who had been staring at a timeline of the Burton murder posted on a wall, whirled around to stare at Hardy, shocked at his audacity with a superior. He angrily waved a hand for her to get back to what she was doing.
“It is still a priority. So are the robberies. I’m under pressure from the business association, Hardy. They already think we’re not taking this seriously enough. If I’m under pressure, then you are too. Of course the death investigation is important. I don’t want Joe Miller’s involvement leaked to the press. I will not hear of it.”
“It’s a bloody murder investigation, not just a death. It’s not just some woman turning up dead in an abandoned house.”
Evans had had enough, apparently, “Don’t lecture me about my priorities, Hardy. You’re in charge of the detectives on the case, not how I choose to use our resources.”
“ Am I still in charge of the case?” Hardy growled.
“You’re still, at this point anyway, making the decisions on the cases.” He heard Evans sigh tiredly. “I understand you switched out detectives on the Burton case.”
“I called in Harford. We can’t have Ellie Miller anywhere near this if we want the case to be prosecuted,” Hardy explained with an air of incredulity. “Obviously I would have to switch her out.”
“It’s late. I’ll be in touch tomorrow. There is a chance we can bring a few others in on this, but I’ll have to run the numbers tomorrow,” Evans told him evenly. “I expect the Joe Miller angle to be kept quiet in the press.”
“Understood,” Hardy growled. He slammed the phone receiver down and glared at Harford.. “I presume he’s doing his best to put me in my place because he thinks I’m a threat to his authority. I think he expects me to leak it to the press on purpose so I’ll get more resources. Or to make him look bad, I don’t bloody know which. Evans is a fuckwit, but I wouldn’t do tha’!” He scrubbed his hands over his face. “Ugh. What’ve you got, Harford?”
“I’ve put in a call to the manager of the Buoy, where Moira met Miller, just to see if he’s been in there the past few days. He hasn’t called back. Seriously, Sir, do you think he’d risk something like this in Broadchurch? This feels off to me. How did you find out about the emails, anyway? How can you be sure that they’re from Joe Miller?”
Hardy glared at her. “A reliable source,” he growled.
“That detective, you mean?” Harford inquired. Hardy ignored her question. She forged on. “Joe Miller was acquitted of a crime of passion. This doesn’t seem like something he’d do.”
“I was here for it, Harford, I know. And I am fully aware this doesn’t appear to be the way he works. But remember, none of us saw it coming the first time ‘round. We’re treatin’ this as a valid thread of inquiry.”
“Evans won’t like you getting the information from a private detective, that’s all. I want to keep my job….” Harford seemed to realize how that sounded, and hastily added, “I want us all to keep our jobs.”
“We’re investigatin’ it, same as how we’re checkin’ into Marshall Burton and Lily Sommers. We might end up eliminatin’ Joe Miller as a suspect. Maybe he had someone else do it. I don’t know. However,” Hardy’s voice became low and dangerous, “if you’d rather go back to work on the robberies so your job’s safe, have at it. I can take care of this.”
Harford’s eyes hardened. “I’ll be very happy to follow up on any leads you send my way, Sir,” she asserted.
“Fine. I’m putting you on researching Lily Sommers. I’ll take the Joe Miller angle.” Harford nodded curtly and left his office. Hardy sat back in his chair with a world weary sigh and rubbed his exhausted eyes. Time to get at it.
While Hardy dealt with Evans’ pettiness and Harford’s scepticism, Rose was waiting on a return message from Jack Harkness, who’d been more than happy to finally be able to help Rose. “He left the restaurant in the able hands of his husband. Apparently I owe Ianto a bottle of wine for the trouble, but it’s worth it. Jack’s already working on it.”
“Already? Blimey, we need him on retainer,” Ellie muttered. She was busy looking over the notes she’d taken from her discussion of the custody arrangements with the solicitor. “So...my solicitor isn’t particularly thrilled with me right now, but she’ll check the agreement out and see what can be done. If anything. But not until tomorrow. Your friend Jack doesn’t have a law degree as well, does he?”
“I’ve never asked. I wouldn’t be surprised, though. He told me he’d get back to me soon, and he will.”
“I’ll take your word for it. We’ll have to call Hardy as soon as we get some information. He won’t be thrilled with me, I suppose, but…..” Ellie shrugged.
Rose gave Ellie a small smile and said, “I’ll make the call. I’ll tell him I did the snoopin’ so you don’t get into trouble.”
“I don’t care if he knows I did it. I understand why I can’t be at the station, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. We’ll incur the wrath of Hardy together.”
Rose chuckled. “I am sorry I lied to the pair of you, though.”
Ellie shrugged. “All is forgiven with me. I know you lied to protect your cover story. And I might be imaginin’ things, but I don’t think you were comfortable with it.”
Rose shook her head. “I wasn’t. I’m not even sure that I’m gonna continue on as a detective, to be quite honest. I enjoyed it at first. It was a distraction, at the very least….” Rose took a deep breath and continued on when Ellie nodded, prompting her to continue. “I joined my dad’s detective agency not long after my...well, he would’ve been my fiance...after he died.”
“Oh, Rose! I’m so sorry.”
“Two years ago, exactly. John was hit by a car. Pushed me out of the way of it, and it hit him. He saved my life. At first I was just...driftin’. Eventually, I took this job, so I could channel this restless energy I had into helping people. I thought John would like that I was takin’ the grief and turnin’ it into somethin’ productive. It’s helped, sort of.”
“But you think you want to get out of it?”
“I don’t know. I need a change. Maybe I’m finally in the right place to make that change.”
Ellie raised her eyebrow, remembering something Hardy had told her long ago, just before her life had been altered forever. Last thing she ever said to me: God will put you in the right place. Even if you don’t know it at the time. “Maybe you are.”
“All might be forgiven with you, but do you think Hardy’s let me off the hook?” Rose asked.
Laughing, Ellie told her, “If you weren’t forgiven, you’d know it. I’m still not quite sure how you escaped his questioning with your head intact. I think he admires the way you stood up to him, among other things.”
“What’s that supposed to mean, Ellie?”
Ellie smirked, eyebrow arched. “I’m not speakin’ for the man.”
“Oh, Rose, that is something the pair of you will have to figure out yourselves. And it might be a bit of a learning curve for him. He’s….awkward. Not very comfortable in social situations at all. He’s had his heart broken badly. And I mean literally. He has a heart condition that really got serious when he was investigating the case in Sandbrook. His wife was a DS and she destroyed the case. He took the blame. By the time I met him he was very ill. He’s had a pacemaker and defibrillator implanted since then. He’s much healthier now, and he’s got his daughter living with him. I think things are looking up for him. Of course he’s still a grumpy wanker, so the average person wouldn’t be able to tell.”
Rose suspected Ellie was leaving out details, and that the truth about Sandbrook was likely much worse than she had revealed. “You can, though. Were the pair of you ever….”
Ellie shook her head emphatically. “No. We were accused of it during Joe’s trial, but nothing was going on. Well, actually, we did make an attempt once, but that was later. Drunken snogging. We decided we were best off as friends. He’s definitely one of the good ones.”
Rose understood the unspoken directive: If you’re interested in him...please don’t break his heart.
Their conversation was interrupted by the buzz of her phone. She examined the screen. “Ellie, Jack traced the calls made up until today. Look.” She handed her phone to Ellie, who scanned over the email attachment.
Ellie locked eyes with Rose, shocked. “The calls placed the day Moira died are from Liverpool.”
Some basic research revealed that Joe no longer had a driver’s licence, and that he still maintained a post office box in Sheffield. Harford had discovered that his flat there was vacant, and the landlord had no idea where he’d gone.
Because Hardy fervently hoped he wouldn’t have to get in touch with Mark Latimer in regards to his meeting with Joe months before, he searched through the notes Rose had given him, to find Jeannine Brewer’s contact information. Knowing that time was of the essence, he called her, despite the late hour. A woman’s voice cautiously spoke, “Hello?”
“Am I speaking to Jeannine Brewer?” Hardy asked.
“Identify yourself first,” the woman demanded tersely.
“I’m Detective Inspector Hardy, Wessex Police, out of Broadchurch.”
With that the floodgates opened. “Oh my God, what happened to Rose? She’s a detective and she told me to be careful. Oh, my God, it’s just like those detective shows my mum used to make me watch with her…..Rose has been killed, ain’t she? She texted me and warned me and now she’s dead, right? Moira’s killer came after her.”
Hardy had thought Jackie Tyler was chatty, but this woman was coming in a very close second. He cut her off before she could continue. “Ms. Brewer! Rose Tyler is fine. She turned her investigation over to the police. Sorry to be callin’ so late, but we need your help. What do you know about Michael Collins?”
“Thank goodness she’s okay. And don’t worry about the time. I haven’t been able to sleep since Rose texted me.”
“She did? What did she tell you?”
“Told me to stay away from Michael Collins, didn’t she? That he’s involved somehow. Gave me a proper scare, she did. She don’t have to worry, I won’t go muckin’ about, playin’ detective. S’what killed Moira, m’sure.”
Well, that’s one less person to worry about, Hardy mused. “What can you tell me about him? Did he frequent the Buoy? Did you take that picture of Moira and him together? “
“Detective..Hardy, was it? I don’t know much about him at all. A friend of mine who knew Moira took the picture. She wanted me to know Moira was workin’ and that….” Jeannine’s voice broke. “That she was okay. But she really wasn’t, was she?”
“No, I’m afraid not. So you wouldn’t know where he lives, or works…”
“I heard he worked at the docks. The Buoy is close to there. ‘Most everybody who frequents there live and work in that neighborhood. He probably lives really close. I’m sorry I can’t tell you any more than that. I...I’m going to Blackpool to visit my brother for the weekend. I don’t wanna be around here. I don’t...wanna be bothered again, really...by the police or Rose or anyone to do with Moira. It’s scarin’ me.”
“I can understand that, Ms. Brewer. The case has definitely taken off in a direction we didn’t expect. However, I’ll be in touch if there’s a question I think you can answer. I’ll need to get your brother’s contact information if we can’t reach you by your phone.”
After a frustrated sigh, Jeannine provided the requested information, going on to explain, “Of course, if you need more help, I’lI always cooperate with the police. I didn’t mean to sound like I wouldn’t...it’s just that it’s all become too much for me. I did mail that envelope to Rose. Is that all you need?”
Hardy could imagine her fidgeting with nerves on the other end. “For now. But we will be in touch.”
“Okay. Fine, ‘bye.” The call disconnected then, the silence deafening.
Hardy’s mind whirred through all the implications. A possible answer occurred to him, and he wasted no time in placing another call to a contact with the Liverpool police. A voice with a Liverpudlian accent greeted him, “Hello?”
“Theo, it’s Hardy.”
“Well! Haven’t heard from you in a while. Last time you wanted a favor.”
Hardy chuckled. “Nothin’s changed. And might I remind you, that the last time I asked a favor, I told you you could call on me any time.”
“That is true. So. What do you need, Hardy?”
“You’re aware of the child murder we had here in Broadchurch a few years ago…”
“Yeah. I remember. The suspected killer was acquitted.”
“Right. He wasn’t just suspected, he bloody did it. Joseph Miller. He moved to Sheffield, then he ended up in Liverpool.”
“Lovely. I kept track of that case when I heard you were investigatin’ it. Nasty story.”
“I have reason to believe he’s involved with another crime in Broadchurch. I was wondering if you had any police records on him there. Under the name Joseph Miller or Michael Collins.”
“I’ll check into it for you, Hardy. And I won’t even call in the favor. I’ll call you back as soon as I find somethin’, if I do.”
Hardy said his goodbyes, then turned to his laptop. Noting the name of the library Rose’s tech friend had discovered, he entered it into a search engine, hoping to find an address. He sighed, thinking of Mark Latimer again. Mark would be his last resort, he decided.
He noticed his reluctant detective passing by the office. Calling out, “Harford!” he hopped up to intercept her. She didn’t appear to be thrilled by the interruption, but he chose to ignore her disgruntlement. “I was wonderin’ how Joe is eligible to rent a flat. He would have to prove his right to rent. He sublet his flat in Sheffield. I wonder if he did that in Liverpool as well.”
“His name might not appear on any registry,” Harford pointed out.
“Right. You contact the Sheffield landlord again. Find out if he knows of anyone Joe would have subleased from. Who knows, maybe he gave Joe the contact himself.”
Harford asked, “So, what is my priority, then? Lily Sommers or this?” Hardy raised his eyebrow, frowning. Harford hastened to add, “I’m not trying to be insubordinate. Really, I’m not.”
Missing Ellie, (and also Rose, he discovered), he put his hands on his narrow hips. He bit out, “Call the landlord, so we can get an address and get Joe out of the way if he’s not involved in this. Then continue on Lily. Or pass Lily off to Jonas.” Harford nodded and hurried away, leaving Hardy to contemplate the headache that was starting to form behind his tired eyes. His mobile buzzed. It was a text from Daisy.
Dad, can you talk?
Hardy winced, then typed back. The case just took a bit of turn.
Fine. It’s nothing.
He could imagine the disappointment on her face, and he pressed the call button. At that moment it didn’t matter if Joe Miller could be running amok in Broadchurch at that very moment. He’d been without his daughter for two long years after Sandbrook. Every day, he had sworn that if she needed him he’d be there for her. “Daisy?” he asked when he heard her hello on the other end.
“It’s okay, Dad, I can handle it.”
“Well, what if I want to help you handle it, Darlin’? Is everything okay there?” He heard Daisy laugh bitterly. “Daisy, come on. You wanted to talk. I’m here.”
“It’s Mum and Dave, innit? Always them. He drinks a lot and he and Mum are always fightin’. I think they’re keepin’ something from me, too.”
His stomach dropped. “Why do you think that?”
“Because when he drinks, they fight, and I overheard her warn him that he’d better not tell me...somethin’. Are they keepin’ somethin’ from me? Do you know what the big secret is?”
“Do you need me to talk to your mum?”
He heard Daisy’s disgusted sigh. “You didn’t answer my question.’
“I just want to see what I can do to help,” Hardy told her, hoping she wouldn’t probe further. This was a conversation he didn’t want to have over the phone. Suspecting she knew more than they realized, he cursed the fact that they’d ever continued to keep the true reason for their divorce from Daisy.
“Can I come home now?” Daisy asked.
Hardy fought the urge to groan. “Daisy, I want you to come home. I want nothin’ more than you to be here with me, happy.”
“But, what? There’s a but , isn’t there?”
Hardy pulled off his glasses, pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. It didn’t help. “This case has taken a bad turn, Daisy. I wouldn’t be home much. I feel like we’re getting closer to a conclusion, but….just stay there another week, then see if you still feel like comin’ home. Stay away from Dave. I’ll talk to your mum.”
“Fine. Whatever. I get it. The case has priority,” she muttered. He could hear her voice breaking, and the sound made tears sting his own eyes.
“Daisy, no. That’s not it at all…..”
“Night, Dad,” she bit out, disconnecting the call.
“Daisy, darlin... Shit. ” He texted her. Do you need to talk some more? I’m here.
It’s late. I’m going to bed, was Daisy’s response.
Hardy let out a string of swears that would have impressed Ellie as he dialed Tess.
“Look, he called Tom around half eight that night. The call lasted for an hour,” Rose told Ellie.
“He couldn’t have been in Broadchurch then. It’s not like she died elsewhere and was moved to the hut. She died there. The timing of the call….” Ellie trailed off, taking the phone away from Rose.
“Apparently rules Joe out. But why would he care about what’s going on in town?”
Ellie reread Jack’s email, trying to pick apart the timeline. She sat down and scrolled through document, trying to find anything she could that would trip up Joe. Finally, she looked up at Rose. “He was in Liverpool. Tom is his fuckin’ alibi. I don’t know whether I’m disgusted by that or relieved that maybe he didn’t have anything to do with this.”
“He had somethin’ to do with it, Ellie. He was certainly nervous about it, according to Tom. There’s more to this….” Rose trailed off.
“He knows Mike Lawry. His brother was arrested for snoopin’ around the crime scene. Somebody texted him to leave a hammer up on Briar Cliff, and we think the hammer was used to take the boards off the cliff side windows,” Ellie revealed.
“So Joe was going by Michael, and he knows a Mike. The blokes at the pub were right about trippin’ over all the Mikes. So. What are the odds that Joe made the text about the hammer?”
Ellie shrugged and handed her back the phone. “Does your friend Jack have any more magic he could do?”
Hardy wasted no time with greetings when Tess answered the phone. “What the hell is going on with Daisy?”
“Hello to you, too, Alec,” she said drily. “She’s being a teenager, that’s all.”
“Horseshit, Tess, and you know it. She’s upset about you and Dave, says he’s drinkin’ around her, and fightin’ with you. I don’t want him around her.”
“Well, she has you wrapped around your finger, doesn’t she? How about you take what she says with a grain of salt? She’s a teenager who doesn’t like who her mum is dating. That’s all there is….”
“She knows a lot more than she tells you, Tess. She know the pair of you are hidin’ somethin’ from her. She probably has it all worked out in her head. It’s time to tell her what went on during Sandbrook before Dave gets pissed and tells her himself.”
Tess laughed. “Fine. You come here and we’ll all three sit down and have a discussion about it. I know you’re in the middle of a case, though, so that won’t happen.”
Hardy took a deep breath that was meant to quell his temper. It didn’t work. “If it needs to happen, it will happen,” he growled, knowing that there was truth to Tess’ veiled accusation. He had to get the Burton case under control first.
As it turned out, mind reading was another part of Jack’s magic. He was already looking into the texts from Joe’s phone, and not long after Rose had made the request, he was sending her a report.
“The texts about the hammer were made from his phone to a different number than Tom’s,” Rose said, reading through the email attachment.
“Kevin Lawry’s,” Ellie presumed. “They all know each other, so….it at least potentially makes Joe an accessory to the crime.”
“I’ll call Hardy. Technically you didn’t find any of this out yourself. I only told you what I found out. So we should be in the clear there.”
“Yeah, but I asked you to do it,” Ellie reminded her.
“Ah, they’ll just think I’m an insatiable snoop who went off on her own again.” Rose winked at Ellie and then assured her, “We’ll get this taken care of. Hopefully you and Tom won’t have to deal with Joe again.” She dialed Hardy’s number. It went straight to voicemail. “Dammit. He’s on the phone. Hold on….” She hung up and texted him. It’s Rose. Call me back. Very important.
“I want her kept away from Dave. Regardless of what he may or may not say to Daisy, she said he’s drinkin’, and I don’t want him around her. He doesn’t need to be in the house.”
“Not your decision,” Tess reminded him.
“I can contact my solicitor in the mornin’, you know,” he shot back.
“Don’t threaten me, Alec.”
Before he could say another word, his phone buzzed with a text alert. He shifted the screen to glance at the message. It was from Rose. “ Dammit,” he muttered. “Tess, I have to go. I will be back in touch. If Daisy contacts me again, I might be there to collect her myself.” Tess began to protest and he silenced the call. “Ugh. What have you done now, Rose Tyler….”
Rose’s phone rang. She glanced at the screen, then she answered it, wasting no time with a greeting. “I found some information out about Joe,” she blurted before he could speak. “I called on my friend Jack….” She heard Hardy groan. “Oh, seriously, you expected me to sit there with my hands folded, starin’ at Ellie?”
“What do you have for me? And do I want to know how your friend Jack found all this out so quickly?” Hardy asked.
“Probably not. Joe was in Liverpool when Moira died.” There was silence on the other end. “Hardy, you still there?”
“Just thinkin’ it through. Are you sure?”
“I’m confident that this is correct, yeah. Jack emailed me all the information.”
“Print it off for me.”
“Too right I will. Hardy, there’s more. Jack looked into the texts originating from Joe’s phone. The messages about the hammer came from him. So, even if he didn’t do it, he’s an accessory to the crime.”
Hardy leaned back in his chair, his eyes squeezed shut as he listened to Rose. Of course they went snoopin’ behind my back. He had to begrudgingly admit to himself that he’d not only expected it, a part of him had hoped for it. He growled, “I’m fuckin’ furious you got Miller involved in this, Rose.”
“Ellie’s been on the phone to her solicitor tonight. I did it all myself,” Rose asserted.
“I don’t believe you, but I’ll have to let that go.”
“I don’t believe you’re all that furious about it,” Rose returned.
“I’m on the way.” He disconnected the call, then sighed heavily. Grabbing his suit jacket, he rushed out, shouting, “Harford! I’ll be back.” He ignored her eye roll as he entered the lift.
Chapter 12: Chapter Twelve
Hardy and Rose become closer, and Joe Miller is questioned about his role in the murder.
Many thanks to Rose--Nebula, who listened to me complain about this chapter and helped me make it better.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Rose had the door open before Hardy could knock. “What’ve you got for me?” Hardy demanded, skipping the pleasantries, and the lecture he wanted to give them both for doing an unauthorized investigation.
“Here you go,” Rose said, presenting him with a print copy of the emails she’d received from Jack. “He was in Liverpool the whole time, according to the calls between his phone and Tom’s. So, that rules him out for the murder, but…..” She pointed to several lines she had highlighted. “These texts also came from Joe’s phone. So he was involved somehow.”
“So apparently he texted Kevin to leave the hammer, but for whom?” Ellie asked.
“You said Joe knew his brother. What do we know about him?” Rose spoke up
“Mike’s been out of town for years. I think he left the EMT squad not long after Joe did.”
“Who knows what he’s been up to since then?” Rose interjected, pacing back and forth as she warmed to her theory.
“Am I really needed at all? You two seem to have this well in hand,” Hardy groused. Rose stopped pacing and rolled her eyes.
“Don’t even act like you’re not glad I had Jack check this out,” she accused him.
“Her super spy friend found it out faster than we could’ve,” Ellie chimed in. “I don’t want to know how he did it, I’m just glad that he did.”
Hardy took a deep breath and said, “Okay. Then we need to check into the brother, for sure. Is there a connection between him and Lily Sommers? We’re assuming the murderer killed Moira over something she discovered about him and Lily.” He rubbed his eyes, exhausted.
Ellie added, “I feel like we’re goin’ off in so many different directions on this. All we know for sure is that sometime before Moira was killed, Kevin left the hammer on the ledge for someone to find, presumably the murderer. He was directed to do it by Joe or someone using Joe’s phone. The murderer took the boards off the window, lured Moira there, and attacked her. Or so we think.”
“Why would Joe even be involved, other than being friends with Lawry? Were they that friendly?” Rose asked.
“You mean, were they friendly enough for Joe to help out with a murder? Who knows who Joe is anymore,” Ellie snorted as she knelt down in front of a bookcase. She shifted some photo albums around. “I got rid of a lot of pictures after Joe left, but these were in one of those damned adhesive photo albums and I couldn’t get the pictures out without tearing it up….” She struggled a bit longer then produced a photo album. Sitting cross legged on the floor, she began to flip through the pages, a look of mild disgust on her face. “I hate having anything to do with him in the house….” she muttered. “Here, found it.”
She stood up, offering Rose the photo album. Rose took it, and Hardy looked over her shoulder. They gazed at a picture of several adults at a picnic table. Front and center were a younger Joe, with thinning hair, and a very pregnant Ellie. “Fred’s the bun in the oven in that picture, so it was taken right before Mike quit the EMT squad. See, he’s there,” Ellie explained. She pointed to a young man in a denim jacket and corduroys. Mike Lawry had curly hair, and a knowing smirk. His arms were crossed, and he looked as though he was in charge.
“Similar in looks to Kevin, but Kevin looks like he’d fall apart if you’d say boo to him,” Hardy observed.
“I think Kevin’s always been kinda timid. I don’t remember much about him, other than that he was quiet. Mike wasn’t. He and Joe used to debate politics when he’d come over for Sunday roasts.”
“So they must’ve been good friends,” Rose said.
“Maybe they were at one time. But they grew apart. Mike was single at the time and Joe was hanging out more with Mark and other dads by the time Mike left.”
Rose wandered away, beginning to pace again. She began to fire off questions, becoming more animated with each one.. “So they reconnected in Liverpool after he had some sort of encounter with Lily? That’s when she ended up dead and Moira came looking for him? Why did Mike leave Broadchurch, anyway?”
Hardy stood, rooted to the spot, watching Rose with a half smile on his face. Ellie caught his expression and thought, Oh. He is a goner. She smirked at him and answered Rose’s question. “I don’t know why he left. Joe just came home one day, and said Mike was quitting and leaving town. I remember asking him if he wanted to have Mike over for tea before he left and Joe said he was already gone. Wasn’t long after that I was havin’ Fred, so I have no idea what happened afterwards.”
Rose seemed to not have noticed what was going on- she was deeply involved in her theory. “What if he left because he was havin’ his own drug issues? Look at ‘im, wearin’ long’ sleeves on what looks like a hot day.”
“It was,” Ellie confirmed. “I was roughly elephant sized at the time, and the weather was just intolerable.”
“So, you’re sayin’ he was hidin’ a drug problem with long sleeves on a hot day?” Hardy asked.
Rose’s eyes narrowed. “Yeah, I think I am,” she confirmed. Her hands on her hips communicated her opinion on the idea, as if she expected to be mocked by the more experienced detective.
Then Hardy shrugged. “Could be. We’ll keep it in mind. Good idea, that.”
Rose’s eyes widened in surprise. “I knew someone on the estates when I was growin’ up. He used to hide the marks on his arm that way. But we always knew. We don’t wanna get too far ahead of ourselves, though. Still have to find Joe, after all….”
Her reminder seemed to be what he needed to focus himself. “I also know someone who can help, believe it or not. He might not be a magical super spy, but he is a detective in Liverpool. He might be able to track Joe down. And then there’s my other thought.” He glanced at Ellie as he trailed off.
“What?” she asked, looking as though she dreaded the answer.
“Mark saw him not too long ago, right? Maybe he could tell us something. I don’t want to bring him in on this, but if he can tell us something…”
Ellie interjected, “No, I don’t want to involve Beth and Mark if we can help it. If Joe is a part of this clusterfuck, it’ll devastate them.”
“It’s gonna devastate them once it all hits the news, Miller.”
Ellie flopped onto her sofa, rubbing her eyes exhaustedly. “I know that, Hardy, but if we can, I wanna keep them out of it as long as possible. I’m gonna talk to Beth once we know what’s goin’ on.”
Hardy returned, “I get that you wanna protect them, Miller. I do. But if Mark can tell me what I need to know, then I’m gonna have to call him.” Before Ellie could argue back, his phone buzzed. He looked at the screen. “Well...maybe we’ll have an answer before too long. Gotta take this….” He put the phone to his ear with a curt “Hardy here,” and walked into the foyer.
Ellie groaned, covering her eyes. “This whole fuckin’ nightmare never ends for any of us. God, I don’t wanna drag Beth into this. I’m not botherin’ her about it until tomorrow morning. Let her get a peaceful night’s sleep. Might be the last one for a while. God, it’s already half two.”
Rose sat down next to her. “Almost wish I hadn’t found this out,” she muttered.
“Bollocks. Better to find it out now than have this drag on forever. It just hurts to think that it’ll set Beth’s healing back. She’s come so far since Danny died. She’s workin’ as a grief counselor now and she’s ace.”
Rose murmured, “How’s your healing? You worry so much about everyone else.”
“Worryin’ about everybody else is what keeps me sane in all this. I was shredded when we found out Joe murdered Danny. Then I hung my hopes on the thought that surely he’d go to jail and we wouldn’t have to deal with him.” Ellie took a deep breath. “And then he didn’t but he left and I was hopin’ he’d disappear from our lives.”
“Maybe he’ll disappear after we get through this,” Rose murmured.
Ellie wiped away a tear. “Not gonna hope for it. Then I won’t be disappointed.”
Hardy burst back into the room. “My contact in Liverpool came through for me. We know where Joe is. When Moira died, he was definitely in Liverpool that night because he went to the Buoy and got into a pub brawl. He was arrested, then he was let go.”
“So we have an address for him?” Rose asked.
“Better than, actually. He’s back in the nick. He’s there right now, and he’s not goin’ anywhere. I’m makin’ plans to go to Liverpool.”
“That’ll be a five hour train trip,” Rose pointed out.
“Whatever it takes,” Hardy told her. Then he turned to Ellie. “Don’t even ask to go, Miller.”
Ellie crossed her arms, scowling. “Why’s he back in the nick, Hardy?”
Hardy’s eyes shifted to Rose, then back to Ellie. “Don’t worry about that. As long as he’s there…”
“Fine then, Hardy. Rose, we’re gonna check this out, too.”
Hardy sighed heavily. “He’s...gotten into some shit.”
Ellie laughed bitterly. “Same kind of shit as before, yeah?”
He nodded. “The other pub brawler beat him up because he had been paying a bit too much attention to his teenager at a football practice. Then the boy’s mum pressed charges when she found out who he was. They booked him, then my contact let them know about our suspicions here. I’m gonna question him about the calls and emails.”
“ Fuck ,” Ellie swore. “He better not step foot out of that jail before you get there.”
“The detective in Liverpool will make sure he doesn’t. I’m leavin’ in the mornin’.”
“We are not bringing the Latimers into this at all, you understand, Hardy? I’ll abide by your orders to stay here, because I’ll kill him if I’m in the same room with him. But I will not bring them into this until we absolutely have to,” Ellie growled vehemently.
“We won’t. Now… I suggest we all get some sleep….” Ellie interrupted with a bitter laugh. “Or at least try to. When you go in tomorrow, you’re to get with Harford and see what she’s found out about Lily. You’re takin’ over that part of the investigation. She’s back on the robberies.”
“As of now, I assume?” Ellie interjected.
Hardy nodded. “And I’ll see you home after all,” he told Rose. “Unless you’re stayin’.”
“It’s okay, Rose. Go on home and get some sleep if you can. I won’t, but there’s no point in keepin’ you up,” Ellie said.
With their goodbyes said, Hardy and Rose left Ellie alone with her thoughts.
“I can’t imagine what she’s dealin’ with right now,” Rose murmured.
“I can. It never seems to end for Miller or Tom,” Hardy sighed. “Joe made one horrific choice and it’s resulted in consequences we could never have dreamed of.” They walked the short distance to his car in silence. He stepped ahead of her to open the door. She smiled up him.
Before she could censor herself she asked, “Do you open the car door for Ellie?” She was grateful for the darkness covering her blush.
He chuckled, surprised at her question. “No….Miller usually drives.”
“Don’t know why I even asked that. Barmy question. Thank you, by the way. For openin’ the door and seeing me back home.”
He walked around the car and smiled at her, “You’re welcome.”
They drove on in silence for a bit, then Rose asked him, “Do you ever call each other by your first names?”
“You’re full of questions,” Hardy commented.
“Just tryin’ to lighten the mood, I suppose. Sorry. Another dumb question. The exhaustion is makin’ me daft.”
“I don’t mind. No, we don’t. The one time I called her Ellie, I was breakin’ the news about Joe.”
Remembering how Ellie had reacted to Hardy revealing the news about Joe earlier, Rose nodded. “Ah. I get it.”
“As for me….I just don’ like my first name. Jus’ always preferred not to use it.”
Rose grinned, picturing a five year old running around nursery school, being called Hardy by his teachers. “Always?”
He smirked. “More or less. Never liked how it sounded comin’ from my dad or my ex-wife.”
“Oh, sorry again,” she said quietly. “So much for lightenin’ the mood.” They stared out at the dark streets of Broadchurch passing by.
Hardy took a deep breath, then asked, “So...how does the health drink heiress become a private detective?”
Rose glanced at him. He didn’t seem to be making fun of her, but she still asked, “Do you really wanna know?”
“I do,” he said sincerely. “Actually, how do you go from a council estate to heiress to private detective? Sounds like there’s an interestin’ story in there somewhere.”
Rose shrugged. “I’ll give you the quick version. My dad was always tryin’ out one scheme or another, and nothin’ was working out. My mum ended up divorcing him after he missed a job interview to pursue some daft idea. For a long time, it was just me and mum, on the estates. Oh, did I hate him. I didn’t see him at all for a couple of years, until we made peace with each other when I turned 16. I guess I forgot why I was mad at him. By then, he’d gotten some takers on Vitex and he started comin’ around more. Mum and Dad ended up remarrying when I was nineteen, believe it or not. Vitex took off and we got off the estates. They had a surprise baby, my little brother Tony.”
Hardy turned onto Rose’s road. “Still didn’t tell me how you ended up a detective.”
“I had a rough patch….erm...ran off with a bad news guy, came home, tried to finish school...failed maths...fell in love with my tutor.”
Hardy’s eyebrow raised in surprise. “Oh. Okay.”
“He and I loved to travel, and...it was two years ago that we were in Croatia. A car hit him. He saved my life but lost his.”
Hardy parked in front of Rose’s chalet. He turned to her. She was staring out of the passenger window. “M’sorry.”
“Anyways...I was drifting. My dad decided to buy Torchwood Investigations from an old school friend, Yvonne Hartman, and he told me there might be room for me there if I wanted. I took him up on it, and I did pretty well at first, believe it or not.”
Hardy smiled. “I believe it. Never said you were bad at it, I just think you’re an amateur.”
Rose rolled her eyes. “I believe that’s what they call ‘damning with faint praise.’”
“Blimey, I wasn’t insultin’ you!” Hardy interjected, his voice rising an octave in the process. “An amateur has room for growin’ and gettin’ better at what they’re doin’. You’re brilliant, even if you are in over your head.”
Rose raised an eyebrow, smirking slightly. “Still not bolsterin’ my confidence.”
“If you’re lookin’ for a cheerleader, don’t ask me to do it. Miller’d tell you that.”
“Well, you tried,” she said, patting his arm.
“The story of my life, I reckon,” he muttered, chuckling.
There was a pause, as they sat awkwardly inside the dark car. Finally, both of them said at the same time, “Well, goodnight,” then Rose burst out laughing. Hardy, who rarely burst out laughing at anything, grinned.
She opened the car door and looked back at him “Thanks for the ride, Alec Hardy. I like your name, by the way.” She quickly stepped out of the car then, and with a small wave, she hurried to the front door. He watched her unlock the door and enter the house. Once the lamp by the window flickered on, Hardy drove away.
Inside the chalet, Rose peeked out of the window to see Hardy’s tail lights fade into the distance. He had waited to make sure she’d gotten in safely. Shouldn’t be surprised. He’s a gentleman, like John was.
She sighed, exhausted. The duvet was still draped over her sofa, and it still seemed like the best option, albeit a bit too lumpy. Her mind was whirring with the case, and the thought of John and Hardy. It became too much to think about, and the duvet looked too cozy. She hurried to the loo to get ready for for the night, then she turned out the light and collapsed onto the sofa, burrowing under the duvet. She dozed off quickly but her sleep was unsettled.
It was much too late to call the solicitor again, so Ellie trudged upstairs to where her family slept. Fred was curled up under his favorite blanket, a well worn Tigger tucked under his arm. Nothing seemed to be troubling him. She could hear her dad’s snores through his bedroom door and wondered what he’d think of Joe now. A mean part of her couldn’t wait to fill him in, to prove that she was right to keep the boys away from Joe.
She peeked into Tom’s room. He was asleep on the bed with his table lamp on, his earbuds in. She left the light on for him, knowing that when he woke up in the night he often turned it on for security. Looking out the window, she could see the dark Latimer house across the way. She hoped that Beth, Chloe and Lizzie slept soundly tonight.
Hardy got ready for bed, set his alarm to wake him in just four hours’ time, and lay down, hoping that sleep would come. However, his hopes were in vain. Too keyed up to relax, his mind filed through the case, trying to put the case in some sort of order. His tired brain finally gave in after a while and he dozed off. Even then, there was no real rest as his dreams took him back to Sandbrook.
He walked along the banks of the rain swollen river as the skies opened up. Across the way was a little hut, much like the one on Briar Cliff, that hadn’t existed back then. Pippa and Lisa were standing too close to the river’s edge. They weren’t alone of course, because his brain was a traitor in his sleep. Rose, Daisy, and Ellie were there as well. He screamed until his voice was hoarse as the women were swept away by the water.
He jolted awake, his heart pounding as he tried to catch his breath. He held still, wondering if the machines that kept his heart beating steady would need to calm his racing pulse but after a few deep breaths, he felt calmer, his heartbeat steady. Looking at the clock, he saw that he’d only been asleep an hour. He rolled over onto his side, trying to settle in, but the image of the women stayed in his mind. It was quite a while before he dozed off again, only to be awakened by his alarm.
After a early morning briefing with the detectives, in which Jonas and Harford took over the robbery investigation and Ellie was instructed to lead a few detectives in the search for details on Lily Sommers, Hardy purchased a ticket and boarded the train to Liverpool. He cleared the trip with Evans only after he’d left Broadchurch.
Five hours was a long time for anyone to travel, but for Hardy it seemed interminable. He managed to sit for a good five minutes watching the scenery before he pulled out his phone and began to text Daisy.
Hi, Darlin. Just wanted to let you know that I had to go out of town on a business trip. I’ll be gone all day, and I might end up staying the night. I don’t know yet.
There was a pause, and just as he was wondering if his daughter had seen the text, she replied, Where 2?
Fighting the fatherly urge to admonish her to use actual words and sentences in her text, he answered, Liverpool.
Gonna go see the Beatles or whatever?
He chuckled. It had become a running joke of Daisy’s that Hardy had no awareness of any music that wasn’t the Beatles or the Proclaimers. Afraid I won’t have time for any magical mystery tours. Although, he did wonder if Jeannine would be at the Cavern long enough for him to talk to her some more about the case. How are you?
I’m okay. Mum is right pissed at you. She told Dave he had to stay away because you said he had to.
“Of course she did,” Hardy growled at his phone screen. Is he staying away?
Then it’s worth it. And I did tell her I wanted him to stay away.
Is your case almost over?
Daisy responded, Stupid question. How would you know if it’s over or not?
Hardy winced and quickly typed, No, not a stupid question. But I can’t answer for sure. The case is why I’m going to Liverpool. Hopefully I can get some answers there.
Then I want to come on home.
Because he was tired of arguing the point, and also because he missed her terribly, he answered, That’s okay. Just give me time to get this figured out.
There was another pause, then she texted, OK. Two simple letters that gave no indication of her mood, or of what was going on where she was. His mother would have probably called him out for praying only when he needed something, but he sent up a prayer anyway. Help me get through this soon. And keep an eye on Daisy. Please.
He typed, See you soon, Darlin. She did not respond.
After two hours of traveling Hardy’s phone rang with a call from Ellie. “So far all I’ve been able to find out about Lily Sommers is that she was there in rehab at the same time as Moira. We already knew that. And there’s no evidence that Mike Lawry ever was there. We know Joe wasn’t there. I don’t know if there’s any connection. I feel like we’re throwin’ darts and missin’ the dartboard.”
Hardy heard the strain and frustration in her voice, and found himself in the awkward position of reassuring her. He was rubbish at it, in his own opinion. “I feel like there’s a link, but we’re just not seein’ it yet. Maybe it’ll be clearer once I talk to Joe.”
“It was worse being blindsided by him killin’ Danny but knowin’ he’s involved somehow with Moira’s murder is a close second.”
He wasn’t sure what to say to that, so he attempted to refocus the conversation. “What have you found out about how Lily died?”
“She overdosed in her newly rented flat. There’s not even evidence to suggest that anyone was with her. I don’t know how Moira ever got the idea that Lily was killed by someone else. But obviously she was onto something. So, here I go, pickin’ up another dart and hopin’ for a bullseye. I’ll be in touch if anything else comes up. And Hardy?”
“Give the bastard hell for me.”
The call disconnected. Hardy sighed, thinking how I wish I could. Still might, after all.
Hardy arrived at the police station for the area around the docks at lunchtime, but he had no time to eat. Theo Gilland was waiting for him. “Hardy,” he greeted, extending his hand. Theo was a good ten years older than Hardy, but gave off the impression of someone much younger, despite the difficulty of his job.
“Didn’t expect you to be here,” Hardy commented as he followed Gilland to the front desk.
“Wanted to make sure you got what you needed. He’s in no danger of getting out on bail, though.”
Hardy nodded. Disgusted to even speak it, he spat, “So. He’s gone and tried it again, eh? Another kid. The new Danny.”
“The father of the boy he took a shine to found out what was going on and who he really was and decided to beat the crap out of him at the Buoy a few nights ago. Then the parents pressed charges against him for the inappropriate contact with their son. That was last night.”
Hardy told him, “The murder in Broadchurch happened while he was getting his arse kicked, so he has an alibi for that. But we think he knows who did it.”
Gilland said grimly, “He knows you’re coming. I think he’s hoping you’ll want to cut a deal. Reduced charges for this, in exchange for information about your murder case. His most recent defender quit, by the way. Didn’t want to deal with the baggage, I guess. He just finished conferrin’ with the new one.”
Hardy pressed his lips together in a tight line, furious. He bit out, “No deal’.”
“Figured as much. Ready to get this over with?”
“Too right I am,” Hardy growled.
The object of Hardy’s fury sat nervously at a wooden table in the interview room. A PC stood in there with him. Theo Gilland stayed in the room as well. Joe was reminded of his rights, and the questioning began.
“Joe,” he said in greeting, grimly. It was distasteful for him to use the man’s surname, since it was so tied to Ellie’s identity in his mind. “We need to talk about a few things.”
Joe stared at him, his left eye swollen. The fight he’d been in the night Moira died had left him bruised and battered. There was a long pause as Joe glared at him.
“Mr. Miller would like to fully cooperate with all your questions,” the public defender informed them.
“Gonna get this straight, right now. There’ll be no deal in regards to the shit you’ve managed to step in here in Liverpool. No trading for information,” Hardy stated flatly.
“Understood,” the solicitor said, looking at Joe with thinly disguised disgust.
Hardy wasted no time. “There is evidence that your phone was used to text a man named Kevin Lawry. The text instructed him to leave a hammer near the crime scene, so that the boards could be removed from the windows,” Hardy said flatly.
“I don’t know anything about that,” Joe shot back. He wrung his hands nervously. “My phone went missing.
I had it out at the Buoy and someone took it.”
Hardy took a deep breath, pushing his fringe back. “What about the records that show that you made phone calls to Tom after the text was sent? That’s when Tom started to get nervous, by the way. He said you scared him.”
Joe sat, silent. His hands began to shake.
“I take it you recovered your phone, then,” Hardy prompted.
“It went missing for a while. An hour. Maybe I lost it. It wasn’t stolen. Just lost.”
Hardy crossed his arms, staring Joe down. “Really, Joe. You’re smarter than that. You really think I believe your horseshit story for a second? Did you text Kevin Lawry to leave a hammer? Answer the bloody question.”
Joe turned to the defender, who told him, “Think you probably should answer. You’ve got enough problems going on to lie about a text.”
“I thought you were defending me,” Joe growled.
“Really don’t have the patience for this. Did you text Kevin Lawry?”
Joe paused. “I didn’t. Michael, his brother...he was here with me. He stayed with me for a while. And...he took my phone. He texted his brother. He said he needed to take care of something. And that he forgot his phone.”
“Was it Moira Burton? Is that what he needed to take care of?” Hardy asked.
“It was something to do with her. I don’t know what.”
Hardy took a deep breath. “What about the emails sent from your account to Moira Burton? ScouserRed?”
Joe’s eyebrow raised. “I don’t know anything about that at all. Michael could’ve used my account, I suppose.” He shrugged, seeming genuinely surprised.
“Did he ever mention the name Lily Sommers to you? Or discussed Moira with you?” Hardy questioned.
Joe appeared agitated. “Not the first one. I’ve never heard that one before. He told me that Moira was a troublemaker, but never why. Look, he was just a lodger. We weren’t close anymore, and I don’t know what was going on in his life. He was with me at the Buoy the night my phone went missing, then he left town after that. Stiffed me on the rent, too. I’m not involved in whatever he was doing.”
Hardy wanted to comment that Joe was likely busy with his own situation, but he didn’t. “The hammer was used to take the boards off the Briar Cliff hut. Where Danny Latimer died, you know. Where Moira Burton also died. Now sit there and tell me again that you weren’t involved in whatever he was doing.”
“Remember what we discussed, Joe,” the defender spoke up.
“I didn’t have anything to do with that woman dyin’. I don’t care if I’m supposed to be cooperative so it looks better for me. Michael knew the details of Danny’s death from the news. He knew about Briar Cliff through that. Not from anything I told him. He’s tryin’ to frame me for this, isn’t he? He wants to blame me for it!”
“Then don’t let him get away with it, Joe. What aren’t you telling me?” Hardy demanded.
Joe paused, rubbing his uninjured eye. “I don’t know. He mentioned her. He introduced me to her, even. He thought she was a troublemaker. She seemed nice enough. She wanted me to invite her back to my place. I wasn’t interested.”
Hardy countered, “Why did you tell her your name was Michael Collins? You weren’t on the pull, so why lie about your name?”
“I didn’t lie. I’m considering changing my name. I need a new start.”
Hardy rolled his eyes. “Okay, then. Joe, ” he said with a sardonic laugh. Joe glared at him. “We’ll need to search his flat, to see if Lawry left anything behind.”
“I can work out the details for that,” Theo spoke up.
“He didn’t leave anything behind! He was just a lodger! He took everything with him,” Joe protested. “Look. He had some sort of….dispute with Moira. When she left town, he followed her to Broadchurch. I don’t know if he wanted her dead. I don’t know why he’d want her dead. But he’s the one you wanna talk to. Not me. I might have told him about the hut being abandoned. But that’s all.”
Hardy stood up, and addressed Theo. “ I need to call my department in on this.” He stood and left the room, pulling out his phone. She answered immediately, and he imagined her sitting at her desk, watching her phone screen.
“Miller. Find Kevin Lawry and get him to tell you where his brother Michael is.”
“Joe implicated him, then?” Ellie asked.
“Yeah. Got a bit more work to do here….but Ellie, I want you in charge of interviewing Kevin. We need to question his brother and see if Joe is blowin’ smoke up our arses.”
Just wanted to let you know that I’ll be taking the week of Thanksgiving off, but I will be back with the story the Monday after. (Nov. 26). If you celebrate, enjoy your Turkey Day!
Chapter 13: Chapter Thirteen
Moira's sister Genevieve drops a major bombshell when she decides to confide in Rose.
So sorry for the delay! On top of life happening, I completely ended up changing Chapter 13. I was trying to build a bridge between the end of 12, and what I'd already written for 13. It turned out to be a really big bridge. I hope you enjoy all the developments!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
While Hardy was busy in Liverpool, Ellie was in charge of finding Kevin Lawry. He wasn’t staying in his flat, and a call into the construction company had proven fruitless. “He ain’t called in,”. Dale Ellis, the foreman, growled. “I redid the schedule and everythin’ since we can’t touch Briar Cliff, and when I do get us some work, he’s nowhere to be found.”
Ellie assigned Lawry to Jonas, much to Harford’s dismay. It seemed as though the junior detective felt she was being shunted aside. Harford opened her mouth, presumably to argue, but Ellie didn’t give her a chance to speak. “I talked to Hardy before he left, and you didn’t seem very eager to follow the leads he gave you. You keep up with those robberies, why don’tcha?”
Meeting Rose for lunch from the fish and chips truck that was now parked just a few blocks from the station, Ellie recounted the dispute with Harford, telling her, “I hate bein’ that way with people, I really do. Especially with another female detective. But she’s being such a fuckwit about it….”
Rose choked out a laugh around her soda. “I enjoy the way you just tell it like it is, Ellie,” Rose commented. “I’m gonna be straight with you. I’m looking into Lily myself. I can get some research done from my cottage. I’ll let you know if I find anything important.”
Ellie chuckled and shook her head. “I can’t keep you from checkin’, I suppose. And I do appreciate it. Don’t you dare tell Hardy I said that. Now….I need to go talk to Beth. She’s been gone all morning. I wanted to see her first thing, but I couldn’t.”
“I’ve been keeping an eye on the news outlets and Twitter. So far, nothin’s gotten out about Joe.”
“It’s just a matter of time, though,” Ellie sighed, gathering her trash and rising from the bench. “Hardy texted just as he was about to go in with Joe. I suppose he’s questioning him now.” Rose stood up and opened her arms, offering the only comfort she knew how to give. Ellie paused, then hesitantly leaned in for a brief hug. “Thanks for what you’ve done so far,” Ellie murmured. She cleared her throat, then stepped back. “Off to check in with Beth.” She offered a tentative smile and tossed her lunch in the bin. She gave a small wave and walked away.
Rose waved. Looking around, she noticed a woman coming in her direction. It took a second for her to recognize Genevieve Burton heading straight for her. She mentally braced herself for a confrontation with Moira’s sister.
“You’re still in town,” Genevieve said, without preamble. “Thought you were fired.”
Rose pressed her lips together and nodded. “I feel like there’s still a job to do.”
Genevieve then completely shocked Rose by telling her, “So do I. That’s why I want to hire you. I don’t want Dad to know, because I think he’s involved. I don’t think he intended for Moira to die but…”. Her voice broke. “He hated Lily.”
“C’mon. Sit down with me.” Rose indicated the bench. Genevieve sat, and Rose faced her. “Why aren’t you going to the police with this?”
“Because I trust you. I remember that you were always nice when our families visited,” Genevieve murmured. Louder she added, “Because you can investigate without my parents finding out. I trust you to keep it quiet.”
Rose raised her eyebrow. They had been at some of the same social events in the past, but Rose could barely remember ever really interacting with Genevieve. “I can. But you know I have to tell Hardy and Miller everything, if it helps them solve the case. If your dad is involved, the detectives will have to know.”
“Yes….but maybe not right away. I’ll pay you over what Dad was paying.”
Rose shook her head. “The money isn’t an issue, Ms. Burton. If you have something information that has a bearing on the case, just tell me.”
“Just call me Gen, okay? All my friends do. She smiled, and Rose found herself smiling back. “I’m really sorry that my father treated you as he did.”
“He’s in mourning. I get it. But...you say he’s involved somehow. What do you mean by that?”
Gen sighed and stared at the cliff looming behind them. Finally she spoke. “He...hated Lily. Not because Moira had fallen in love. Not at all. Lily worked for a rival tech company. Cybus. Have you heard of it?”
Rose racked her brain. She vaguely remembered Mickey interviewing with them at one point. “They specialize in speakers and Bluetooth tech, don’t they?”
“Yeah. Dad’s company is also working on similar tech. “So….he got it in his head that Lily was getting corporate secrets from Moira. He didn’t want them together.”
“In rehab?” Rose asked incredulously. “So...Lily and Moira knew each other before rehab?”
Gen shrugged. “I don’t know when they met.”
“Okay….what are you trying to tell me, Gen? Because my mind has jumped to Marshall wanting Lily dead for this. Please tell me I’m daft.” Rose’s mind was whirling with the possibilities. She had socialized with this family. Gen and Moira’s dad was a wanker, but she couldn’t imagine him ordering a murder like a mafia don. Gen didn’t ease the dread churning her stomach, shrugging at Rose’s suggestion.
“I thought you would want to know my father could be involved. I can’t be certain, but Dad certainly hated Lily. We all could see it.”
Rose stared at Gen, who’d been tearing up just moments before. Moira’s sister sat calmly, not breaking eye contact. “You know I’m going to have to go to DI Hardy with this information,” she stated flatly. “What do you know? Do you have proof that Lily was using Moira to steal corporate secrets?” Rose’s mind was reeling with the implications.
Gen frowned. “You don’t believe me.”
“I’m keepin’ an open mind. The more information I have, the faster we can get results. I’m just gobsmacked, Gen. You’re hittin’ me with a major revelation here.”
Gen stood up and bit out, “I just thought you’d want to know. If you don’t want to work for us, fine, but I thought you’d be the best option for finding out what really happened to Moira because you’re already involved. And our families are friends.”
Rose hopped up. “I want to find out what happened to Moira. But the police will have to know this. You’ll get called in to give evidence, and so will your dad.”
“Can’t we keep it between us, at least for a bit?”
Rose groaned, “No!” She ran her hand through her hair, frustrated. Gen turned on her heel. “I don’t know what the hell you’re playin’ at, Gen.”
Gen whirled around. “I’m not playing at anything, Rose. I want you to check this out without police interference. That’s all. You don’t want to.”
“It’s not that I don’t want to. Believe me, I do. But I’m not leaving Hardy and Miller out of the loop if you have a serious suspicion that your father had something to do with this. Come back to my cottage, and we’ll talk about it. There’s too many ears out here. We need to be more discrete.”
Genevieve stared at Rose. “Fine,” she said, nodding. “Lead the way.”
During the short walk Rose wondered just what the hell had happened, and how the case could have taken such a turn. All along the way to the chalet Genevieve dominated the conversation, chattering about Moira and her as small children, about how Moira demanded all the attention even as a small child. Gen laughed it off, as if it was something she looked back on with amusement.
Rose, still mostly gobsmacked, listened as they arrived at her chalet. Genevieve’s demeanor was strange. She’d started out the conversation seemingly upset and now she was chattering away about childhood memories. She reminded herself, everyone grieves in their own way. Maybe I’m the first person who’s listened. She could recall a time, after shutting down around her parents and Mickey, a random stranger’s kindness had had her opening up and spilling her grief about John.
It just felt... strange, somehow.
Once in the house, Rose indicated that Genevieve should sit down. “Lemme just open this. It’s stiflin’ in here,” Rose told her as she unlocked and opened the window over the desk. A gust of wind blew in, ruffling some papers she had under a paperweight snow globe showing a ship being tossed about at sea.
“I guess your home office has to be fairly portable,” Genevieve said. “I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be a private detective. Love detective stories. You’re not on your own though, not like in the Cormoran Strike novels. You’re...corporate, I suppose.”
“I suppose,” Rose allowed. She wondered where Genevieve was going with this line of questioning.
“Is it as exciting as it is in the books?” Genevieve appeared to be serious. Rose didn’t suspect that she was making fun of her job.
“Not quite. It’s a lot of tedious research, actually. I’ve gone to Monaco on a missing persons case, so I guess that’s as close to exciting as it gets. I ended up drinking in a casino bar with the woman whose fiancé I was trying to find.” Rose sat down on the sofa. “Now. You say that Lily Sommers worked for Cybus Industries?”
“Well, yes, I’ve already told you that.”
“Just tryin’ to keep things straight in my head,” Rose said with a smile. “And that Moira was being used by her. That’s why your father hated her.”
“Let’s face it. In Daddy’s eyes, nobody would be good enough for his daughter, man or woman. When it looked like they were serious about each other, he checked into Lily’s background.”
Rose’s brow furrowed. “Did he have Torchwood look into her? I don’t remember Dad saying that we’d worked for Marshall before, though. I think Dad would’ve said something. But maybe if he did, there’d be records of a previous investigation. That would save a lot of time.”
Genevieve shook her head emphatically, frowning. “ No. He didn’t use Torchwood. There wouldn’t be any records.” She crossed her arms and stared out of the window.
Blimey, she’s a high maintenance informant, Rose though, frustrated. Although I probably have the easy job. I’m not having to confront Joe Miller. Or breaking bad news to Beth Latimer. “Did he use another agency, then?” Rose asked, curious as to why Gen would shut that idea down so completely. “It’s fine if he did. It won’t hurt Dad’s feelings or anything.” She smiled at Gen, hoping to smooth over the awkwardness.
Genevieve expelled a huffy breath, and revealed, “My father has his own spies at Cybus.”
Once again, Rose was gobsmacked. She didn’t know many of the inner workings of Vitex. As far as she knew, her father didn’t have spies in other drink companies. But she didn’t know this for sure. The thought of actual corporate intrigue of this nature was foreign to her. “Your father had spies, spying on the other spies. Okay. So, do you know who they are? Is it documented somewhere that Moira was giving secrets to Lily?”
“You’re laughing at me, aren’t you. Not out loud, but you are. You think this is all ridiculous.” Genevieve spoke calmly, barely speaking above a murmur. Rose could hear the anger in her tone, however, and she struggled to keep her own temper.
“M’not laughin’ at you, Genevieve. It’s just...bogglin’ my mind.”
Genevieve stood, running her fingers through her hair. Pacing back and forth between Rose’s desk and the sofa, she spat, “I feel like I’m under suspicion here, Rose. I don’t appreciate it.”
“I have to ask questions, Gen. How else will I get any information? I need to know if what you’re tellin’ me is a fact or a suspicion. I’m not judgin’ you. You’ve dropped a bombshell, and I’m surprised. That’s all there is to it!”
The angry woman stopped pacing, staring at the desk, her head bowed. Rose had no idea what to do. “I’ve obviously made a mistake,” Genevieve muttered. Rose was shocked when she whirled around, glaring. For a brief moment she was frightened of the woman in her cottage. “I’ve made a mistake,” Gen repeated, pushing past Rose to burst through the front door.
Rose went after her. Genevieve’s exit was ruined by the postman she nearly slammed into as she tried to run away. She managed to knock a large mailer out of the postal worker’s hand. Moira’s distraught sister paused long enough to see him stumble and pick up the envelope.
“Genevieve!” Rose yelled. “Blimey, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what just happened. Are you okay?”
The postman nodded. “At least she wasn’t an angry dog,” he chuckled. “Suppose this is yours.” He handed her the large envelope and walked away.
“Thank you!” Rose called. Noting the return address was Jeannine Brewer’s, she realized the envelope Moira had hoped would solve her mystery had finally arrived in Broadchurch.
She wrestled her phone out of her pocket as she walked back inside. Placing the envelope on the desk, she dialled Hardy. She knew chances were nonexistent that she’d actually get to talk to him, but she was still disappointed when his voicemail immediately picked up. Groaning, Rose listened to his outgoing message, then she spoke. “Hi, Rose here. I know you’ve had quite an afternoon. So have I. Please call back when you can. The envelope Moira attempted to mail arrived, and Genevieve Burton came over, dumped a major revelation on me, and then left. I’m calling Ellie, too.”
In her office at the counseling center, Beth sat behind her desk, staring, pale and shocked, at Ellie.
“I….I don’t know what to think,” Beth Latimer muttered shakily to Ellie. “Paul would have a field day with me wishin’ Mark had just finished him off in Liverpool. We’re all gettin’ our heads on straight again and here bloody Joe Miller comes back like some evil out of a horror movie, and hurts another child. And you tell me he might be involved in that poor woman’s murder, too? How fucking dare he.” Beth clenched her fists tightly, struggling not to raise her voice. “I sound so selfish, but dammit, we were gettin’ on with our lives!”
“I know, and I’m so sorry. I wanted you to know before the news got wind of it. Just hope, that maybe this time, Joe will get what he deserves.” Ellie didn’t quite believe her own words, but she hoped her friend would find some solace in them.
Beth laughed bitterly. “I’ll believe it when I see it. Have you talked to Mark yet? He’s in Chiswick now. Got a job there with a plumbing company. He’s doin’ better. Or was, anyways.”
“I haven’t called him yet. I wanted to talk to you.”
“I’ll do it. You’ve got enough going on. I’ll call Chloe first, though, before Twitter gets ahold of this. I appreciate you telling me before social media blares it everywhere.” Beth stared at her phone, and Ellie could practically feel her dread.
Before Ellie could speak again, her phone began to ring. She saw Rose Tyler’s name on the screen. She declined the call, wanting to focus her attention on Beth.
“You take that call. Maybe it’ll be some news that gets this nightmare over quicker,” Beth said.
Ellie’s phone dinged, and she glanced at the screen. Ellie, call me back ASAP. Major development. Hardy’s not available.
“Go on. And if you see Joe….If you talk to him, tell him I hope he rots in prison.”
Ellie nodded in agreement.
After four hours spent in Liverpool, Hardy had to concede it was time to go back to Broadchurch. Joe had actually spoken the truth about Mike’s lack of presence in his flat. A preliminary search had yielded no more information about Miller’s lodger.
Joe was held on charges of inappropriate contact with a minor. “He still won’t leave any time soon. He’s also officially under suspicion for the Burton girl’s murder. Even if he didn’t do it, he’s got some sort of connection,” Gilland reminded Hardy at the train station.
“He was already tried and acquitted for Danny Latimer, but maybe he’ll be convicted and sent away for this new charge. Whatever happens, I won’t be rid of him for a very long time, I reckon,” Hardy sighed. He said his goodbyes to Gilland, who promised to keep him up to date on everything, and then he settled in for another long ride home.
His phone had been buzzing constantly since he left Joe’s flat in the hands of the local crime scene investigators. He’d had no time to check it, so when he settled into his train seat he discovered numerous calls and texts from both Ellie and Rose. It seemed as though Broadchurch had been a bit chaotic while he was confronting Joe.
He called Ellie first, and she filled him in on what Rose had told her. “Corporate spies? Seriously? That sounds like a really horseshit story. We’ll have to bring the Burtons back in, I reckon. Ugh.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “This case is like tryin’ to hold corks under water. You think you have them all submerged and another one pops up.”
“Like corks, huh? That’s eloquent. What did Joe have to say?”
“He puts the blame squarely on Mike Lawry. Says Lawry was his lodger, and stole his phone. Not only that- he claims Mike used his email to threaten Moira.”
“Nothin’s ever his fault, m’not surprised. Is he still in the nick?”
“He is,” Hardy conformed. Ellie brought him up to date on her meeting with Beth. He listened, wincing at Ellie’s description of her friend’s reaction to the bad news.
“Coulda been worse, I suppose. But if the news gets out, at least they’ll know beforehand,” Ellie sighed.
“You did the best you could do,” Hardy reassured her. “Okay. Jonas stays on Lily Sommers, but now he gets in touch with...what was it?”
“Cybus,” she reminded him.
“Did you track down Kevin?”
“We’re workin’ on it.”
Hardy frowned. “Well, you gotta work harder.”
“What happened to you did the best you could do ?” Ellie snarked.
“You did your best on that particular thing, and now we have to do more. I’ll be back around nine.”
“You’ll be in the office, then?” Ellie asked. He could hear the resignation in her voice.
“Where else would I be?” After saying his goodbyes to Ellie, he dialed Rose. “It’s Hardy. What’s going on with Genevieve Burton?”
“Have you talked to Ellie already? I don’t want to waste time going over the same territory,” Rose answered. He heard the exhaustion in her voice. At the same time, he appreciated her no-nonsense attitude.
“I talked to her. So, do you believe her? Ellie told me what she said, but you saw how she acted.”
There was a pause. He imagined Rose considering the possibilities. “She was all over the place. I guess that’s the best way to put it. When she came to me she seemed upset. Makes sense, she’s in mourning. Then it was like...she was guilting me into helping her out.”
“Maybe flattering me into working for her would be a better way of putting it. She even offered to pay me more. I think she made it pretty clear she was paying for my silence as well as my detective services. She didn’t want me to talk to you or her parents, right away at least.”
“What did you agree to do, then?” Hardy asked.
“I’ve texted you at least five times since I talked to her, so I think you know I planned to contact you no matter what she demanded. Especially when she hit me with the corporate spy revelation.”
“What do you think about that?”
He heard Rose take a deep breath. “I know it happens. I don’t know if my dad does it, or if he’d even tell me if he did. Marshall seems the type to do it, but it doesn’t quite fit with what we know from what Moira told Jeannine. She made it seem as though she met Lily in rehab. I think, from what Genevieve told me, they had to have known each other before that. I don’t know. It just feels weird. I walked her to my house and the whole time she was chattering away about Moira demanding all the attention as children, and then asked me questions about what it’s like to be a detective. And when she thought I didn’t believe her, she got really angry with me and left.”
Hardy took off his glasses, staring out at the scenery moving past, thinking of what Rose had revealed.
“You still there, Hardy?”
“Yeah. Has Genevieve always been unpredictable? When we interviewed her, she told us that she fought with Moira and basically dared her to investigate Lily’s death. ”
“Really? She didn’t mention that to me at all. I barely know her. At first, I chalked it up to her grieving Moira. I’ve been there and I still have my moments when I’m a mess. The longer she talked, the more uneasy I got. She basically accused her dad of putting a hit out on Lily Sommers. That is not the Marshall Burton my parents and I know.”
“Yeah, but how well do you really know the family?”
“I think, well enough to doubt that Marshall wouldn’t want his daughter’s friend dead!” He could hear the frustration in her voice.
Hardy sighed, remembering a similar conversation with Miller a few years prior. He found himself giving her the same advice. “People are unknowable. Remember, Miller had no idea of what Joe was up to with Danny, and she lived with him. You barely know the Burtons. We can’t discount the idea until we prove it isn’t true.”
“Then why would Marshall hire me to find Moira? That’s a big risk for him, if I happened to find out he was involved in his daughter’s death,” Rose argued.
“Remember, when he hired you, he thought you were bringing her home safe. Maybe Moira was never meant to die. Maybe the whole scenario in the hut was meant to scare her off of her own investigation and it went horribly wrong.” There was a silence as both Hardy and Rose let that thought sink in. Finally he spoke again. “I’ve got one of my detectives looking into it, at any rate. And Ellie will be bringing in the Burtons for another chat. Have you turned that envelope over to the station yet?”
Rose expelled a huffy breath. “I’m taking it over soon.”
“Gone through it a few times, have you?”
“Three or four. What if Moira hid some clue in it that we haven’t found yet? You’ll get it later today.”
Hardy found himself smirking at her. “After you’re done with it, then?”
He heard Rose’s chuckle. “Exactly. I like how we’re not even pretending that I’m not snooping around now.”
“We might not be pretending anymore...but I’m still not thrilled. Be careful.”
“I am being careful,” she protested. “Did Joe tell you anything of value?”
“He blamed it all on Mike Lawry. We’re trying to locate his brother to find him. Kevin’s not at his flat and he didn’t show up for work.”
“Did you ever check out the address Moira left behind? 1103 Bay Close? That was Mike and Kevin’s childhood home. Maybe Kevin’s lurking about around there. He was fond of the neighbor lady, Rita Holland. She’s in the house to the left, as you’re lookin’ at the Lawry house. Also, his mum is in a care home in Sheffield, but she didn’t specify which one.”
Hardy raised his eyebrow. “No, I hadn’t heard that.” He shifted in his seat, frowning. Here he was, stuck on a train, and the case was escalating exponentially. Mentally urging the train to move faster, he muttered, “Fuck.”
“Pardon?” He could hear a slight tone of amusement in Rose’s voice.
“Frustrated,” he growled. “I won’t be back until around nine, and then I’ll be goin’ straight to the office. I’ll have to let you go and contact Ellie again. Such a joy, runnin’ an investigation from the slowest movin’ train in bloody England.” He paused his rant long enough to add, “Thanks for all the information, by the way. It’s appreciated.” He winced at his awkwardness.
Rose chuckled. “You appreciate me stirrin’ the pot?”
“Suppose someone has to,” Hardy allowed. They said their goodbyes and rang off then. He checked his phone battery, mumbling, “Runnin’ an investigation on forty-nine percent.”
The sacrifice of Hardy’s mobile battery power was worth it. A call to Ellie resulted in a check of 1103 Bay Close, and the discovery that someone had indeed been staying there, having gained entry through a back window. Ellie spoke to Rita Holland, who was very confused about why the police would want to talk to Kevin, who was always so sweet to her. Ellie was able to convince her it was to Kevin’s benefit that they find him and discover who was staying in the empty house. Hoping what she had told the kind lady was the truth, Ellie and Harford picked Kevin up at his favorite pub on the outskirts of Weymouth.
Ellie had barely uttered Mike’s name when his brother interrupted her question.
“I don’t know where he is,” Kevin declared, as he sat nervously in the interview room. “I haven’t seen him in months. We don’t get along.”
Ellie raised her eyebrow. “But you’ve heard from him, right? We’ve been told that Mike was the one who texted you about the hammer.”
“I told you already. I don’t know who did that. It was an unfamiliar number.”
Ellie crossed her arms, glaring at the young man sitting across from her. Barely resisting the urge to bark “horseshit” as Hardy would have, she bit out, “Well, apparently the phone belonged to Joe Miller.”
“I ain’t seen him in years. If it was from his phone I wouldn’t have recognized the number.”
“But you’d leave a hammer in a remote location because a text from an unfamiliar number told you to. Kevin, just cut to the chase. You know where your brother is. We need to ask him some questions. Is he hiding out in your old house?”
Kevin looked away. He chewed at his thumbnail, and his fringe was damp with sweat. A poker face, he does not have, Ellie thought. The man’s breath hitched.
“I broke in.”
Harford leaned toward him. “What?”
“Why the hell would you do that?” Ellie blurted. “Don’t even tell me you were nostalgic for the old homeplace.” Kevin shrugged. “Stop lying.”
“M’not lyin’. I took the screen off the window and opened it. That’s how I got in.”
“It’s how somebody got in. I doubt that it was you,” Harford countered.
“Where’s Mike?” Ellie demanded.
Kevin ran his hand through his hair nervously, making him look even more frazzled and unkempt. “I don’t know. Okay….I lied about opening up the house. Mike did that.”
Ellie asked, “Why would he need to break into that house, Kevin? He could stay with you at your flat.”
“I told him he wasn’t welcome at my place.” Kevin answered.
Ellie rolled her eyes. “But you would leave the hammer for him on Briar Cliff,” Ellie reminded him.
“I did what he asked because I don’t want to deal with him. If I do what he wants then he leaves me alone,” Kevin murmured shakily. Tears filled his eyes.
In that moment, Ellie’s heart went out to him. He really wasn’t much older than Tom. When she spoke again, her voice was gentle. “Is Mike threatening you? You look terrified.”
Kevin shook his head. “He’s not threatening me.”
Ellie glanced at Katie, and she was fairly sure both of them were thinking the same thing. “Who is he threatening, then?” Ellie murmured. “We can protect you, and whoever else needs it.”
Kevin sat, stony faced.
Katie asked, “Where is Mike, Kevin? Is he in Broadchurch?”
“I don’t think he is in town anymore. Can I go? I honestly don’t know where he is.”
The interview went downhill from there. Kevin refused to answer any further questions. After a while, he was released with a warning to stay in Broadchurch, and a plea to come to them if he saw Mike.
Rose looked over the envelope another time before giving up and walking it to the police department. It was a warm, pleasant day with a cooling breeze blowing in off the water, so Rose took a route that passed by Bay Close. The SOCO officers were still swarming the place. She scanned the yard, looking to see if Ellie was there. A small crowd of onlookers were milling about, speculating on the reason for the visit. “Wonder if it’s about the robberies,” she overheard a person ask her friend.
“Are you kiddin’? The police are useless ‘round here. They probably don’t care that the businesses are bein’ robbed left and right…”
Rose bristled at that, not wanting Hardy and Miller’s work to be dismissed so rudely.. “Reckon they’re doin’ the best they can with all that’s on their plates,” she murmured audibly enough for the commenter to turn around and glare at her. She ignored them, looking past the crowd to see a young man lurking by some shrubbery in Rita Holland’s yard. She pushed by the rude onlookers and made her way through the crowd to Kevin Lawry. He looked as though he wanted to disappear. “Hi,” Rose smiled. Maybe I can stir the pot a bit more, she thought. Kevin turned and walked away. “Kevin! Hey! Just wanted to talk for a second….”
Kevin whirled around, his eyes blazing. “M’not talkin’ to the police. I’m done.”
“I’m not the police. I’m Rose Tyler, by the way,” she told him, as she jogged towards him. She caught up to him by Mrs. Holland’s front walk.
His eyes narrowed. “You were here before, talkin’ to Mrs. Holland. I saw you.”
Rose’s heart gave a little lurch with the revelation that he’d seen her. “Oh, really? Nice lady, that Mrs. Holland. She likes you. Not so much your brother, though.”
“Why were you talkin’ to her? If you’re not the police, why are you nosin’ into my business?”
“I’m helping out a friend. He’s looking for Mike.”
Kevin laughed bitterly. “Yeah, well, he might not want to do that.”
“Why not? He just has a couple of things he needs to ask him. If you know where
Mike is, you could really help him out,” Rose told him.
“No, don’t think I will,” Kevin countered, shaking his head. “You want to stay away. It’s better if you do.” He turned his back to her, climbing the two steps to Mrs. Holland’s door.
“Are you warnin’ me?”
“Maybe someone should’ve warned Moira, yeah?”
Kevin looked back at Rose. “Maybe,” he agreed.
Rose walked a couple of steps towards him. She was wary, but not frightened. She’d spent her teenage years on the estate, and had been threatened by tougher people. “If you know something about what happened to Moira, you have a responsibility to tell the police. Moira’s family is in misery.”
“I can’t fix that,” Kevin scoffed.
“No, but you could make sure the person who killed Moira is off the streets, and that no one else has to go through what her parents are going through.”
Kevin came down the steps, close enough to her to make her back up. “It’s not that easy. You don’t know.”
“I didn’t say it would be easy. But it’s the right thing to do.”
Kevin pressed his lips together. His hands were shaking. “You don’t get it. I want it all to be over. Just leave him alone, and it’ll all be over.”
Rose’s eyes widened as a piece of the puzzle fell into place. “You tell yourself that a lot, don’t you. Just leave him alone, just do what he says...and it’ll all be over. Is he trying to control you? You could make it all end, I’ll bet. Just talk to the police….or talk to me. I’ll help you. Please consider it.”
“You don’t understand,” Kevin whispered. The front door opened suddenly, surprising them both.
Rita called out, “Oh, Kevin! Your friend Rose caught up with you, I see. Come on in and I’ll put the kettle on for all of us.”
“Rose is leaving,” Kevin stated flatly. He went back up the steps and into the house, nearly bowling over Mrs. Holland. The door closed firmly, leaving Rose alone in the yard.
I have chapters 14, 15 and most of 16 written. My plan is to post all of those in the beginning of December, and then take a brief hiatus from this story to write my Secret Santa stories I need to complete. My plan is to pick up with this story again after Christmas. I'll begin the hiatus after the 16th chapter. I hope you enjoy what's to come for the characters. Maybe by the 16th chapter there will finally be kissing......
Chapter 14: Chapter Fourteen
The attraction grows between Rose and Hardy as the case kicks into high gear. They're slowly getting the answers they seek, but as the revelations come, the danger increases.
A bonus chapter this week! Thanks as always to Rose--Nebula. I'm planning on posting two more next week, then going on the short hiatus to write Christmas fluff.
Hardy’s train, although slow, somehow managed to make it back by nine-thirty. He went straight to the station, where Ellie was still toiling at her desk. She was hungry and angry, and he was starved and disgruntled, so the briefing Ellie gave him was quick and prickly. “Kevin Lawry is hiding something. The knob knows where his brother is, I can feel it. And then there’s Genevieve. She denies she ever had the conversation with Rose, but she’s obviously lying. I trust Rose.”
“So do I. So why the hell did she even go through the whole charade?” Hardy asked, then he groaned.
“I don’t know. It’s ridiculous, and they’re all distractin’ us from seeing the big picture. Joe, too. I hope the bloke he fought with got in a few good punches. Did you have a chance to talk to Jeannine again?”
Hardy commented, “No, I didn’t. She’s not answerin’ at either number she gave me. Wasn’t at the Cavern, either. Joe was lookin’ rough, if it’s any consolation.”
“If I wasn’t starvin’, it actually would be a consolation. I’ve had it, though. I want food.”
Hardy looked back at his office door, knowing that he really needed to get in there to work. He needed to call Daisy. His stomach rumbled. “I’m gettin’ us some takeaway,” he decided. Ellie smiled at his announcement.
“Get me something fried. I don’t care what. Chips would be good.”
He nodded as he pulled out his phone to text Daisy. I’m back in Broadchurch. I’ll call you after I eat. Hope everything’s okay.
K , was her response. He rolled his eyes as he entered the lift, once again resisting the urge to request sentences with actual words.
Rose was lurking about the police station when Hardy stepped outside. All thoughts of purchasing an late dinner for himself and Miller vanished as she approached him.
“What are you doin’ out here at this time of the night?”
“Hello and welcome back to you,” Rose snarked, but she was smirking, taking his bluntness in stride. “I was eating at the pub and I decided to see if you were back yet. Needed to talk to you. Got a minute?” she asked.
“Yeah, just a minute though. My daughter’s expectin’ me to call,” Hardy answered.
“Won’t take long. I hope, anyway.” She took a deep breath and forged on. “I talked to Kevin Lawry after Ellie interviewed him,” Rose confessed. “I went over to Bay Close on my way to drop off the envelope. I needed to satisfy my curiosity about what was going on over there. Kevin was in the crowd milling about while the scene of crime investigators were working. I didn’t get to talk to Ellie because she was busy, then my mum called and it took forever to talk to her...”
Hardy reacted to her news by moaning in frustration. “Bloody hell!”
Rose tried not to smile.“Well, you didn’t get anywhere with him, did you?”
His glare told her she was correct.
“And you did?” he demanded.
Rose pressed her lips together, frustrated. “No, not really…”. He crossed his arms, looking infuriatingly smug. “I told him about her parents’ grief. I gave him a guilt trip. A really good one,” she told him, mentally wincing at how lame it sounded. “I think I gave him somethin’ to think about.”
“A guilt trip. That’s what you gave him,” Hardy said incredulously.
“So, that’s something you’d never do, I take it,” she challenged.
He snorted laughter. “No, it’s what Miller would do.”
“It’s a mum thing, I suppose. I’m not a mum but I suppose I channeled mine. And she’s good at it,” Rose said with a chuckle. “You’re a dad. Don’t you use your guilt power?”
“Not on suspects, just on my daughter and it usually doesn’t work because she calls me on my horseshit.”
Rose smirked. “She takes after you, then. I like that.”
“Yeah, she does. Don’t try to change the subject,” he ordered, pointing his finger at her. “Stay away from him. You don’t know who he’s talkin’ to. What did you tell him?”
“I told him that her parents were in misery. And that he couldn’t fix that, but he could see to it that the person responsible is brought to justice. I think his brother’s holdin’ somethin’ over his head, or he’s bullied him to the point that Kevin will do whatever he wants. But maybe I appealed to his better nature.”
“Did you now? Can you think of anything else you might have told him that he could repeat back to his arsehole brother? That might give him a heads up, so we lose him? Or that will make him come after you?”
Rose glared at him. “I told you what I said. Nothing more. You’re accusin’ me of still being a stupid rookie, aren’t you? Well, it’s true, I am just getting started. And this is my first time in a situation like this. But I’m not going to compromise your case. I’m not a moron. You might be able to get away with talkin’ to your subordinates that way, but not me!”
Hands on hips, he weathered her tirade. Once again he found himself a bit in awe of her. “I’m not insinuating that you’re a moron. And I already told you, bein’ an amateur isn’t a bad thing. But you are in over your head, just like Moira was. And I don’t want you hurt,” Hardy blurted.
She smirked, “You just don’t want me gettin’ in your way.” Surely he couldn’t mean that he actually cared….
“I want you to stay safe,” Hardy told her.
“I plan to. I can take care of myself,” Rose assured him.
“I don’t doubt that you can, Rose, but I’m sure Moira thought the same thing, and now her parents don’t have a daughter anymore.”
Rose gazed at him. He’d crossed his arms, trying his best to look stern but she saw the sincerity in his eyes. “Okay. I’ll be careful. I’ll stay away from Lawry. But not because I can’t handle the job, you know. Because you’re right about Moira’s parents.”
“I don’t think you’re a moron, by the way,” he mumbled.
“S’okay. Truce?” She extended her hand to him and he shook it without hesitation. His handshake was firm. And it felt quite natural, his hand holding hers.
“Truce,” Hardy confirmed. She was smiling at him as well, and his heart gave another happy little jolt at the sight, much like it had when he first saw her at the train station. And still she held his hand.
Then a gaggle of school aged children and a harried mother were dashing past them, interrupting whatever mood had arisen between them. They pulled away simultaneously, both looking slightly pinker than they had before.
“Well, then,” Rose said, wincing internally at her eloquence.
“So…. what did you get outta him?” he asked, wanting desperately to get the subject back on the investigation before he was completely distracted.
“Nothin’ worked, huh?”
“I don’t smile and act all cute to get informants to talk, if that’s what you’re wonderin’. I have a strict no flirting policy,” Rose informed him.
Hardy nodded. “Good for you. You shouldn’t have to.” He said something more but the wind and waves took his words. The smirk he was giving her made her think that possibly she wasn’t supposed to hear them.
“What did you say?” she asked, eyebrow arched. The tips of his ears went red in a very satisfying way.
“Nothin’,” he mumbled.
“What?” She grinned from ear to ear at the thought of calling him out on this. “C’mon, Hardy, what did you say?”
He mumbled something that sounded like….
“Parsnips? Did you say parsnips?”
Hardy was groaning inside as he tried to glare at her. Blimey, just opened my mouth an’ my granddad came out. And then, to his horror, he found himself blurting, “I said your smile butters many parsnips.”
“That’s what I thought you said!”
Then she did it. She smiled at him, with the barest hint of pink tongue poking out. She was pure mischief and sunlight, and he realized he was teetering on the precipice of being lost. Here, in the middle of a murder investigation, in the middle of a manhunt, for fuck’s sake. Despite the horrible timing of it all, he realized he wasn’t just teetering. He’d already fallen.
“Did I butter yours?” Rose inquired, eyebrow raised, grinning.
Hardy finally stammered, “I can neither confirm nor deny that.” The slight grin on his face told another story, and Rose beamed. In return, Hardy’s own smile broadened. They stared at each other, grinning like fools for a good thirty seconds before Hardy came back to himself. They were, in fact, still in the middle of an investigation and manhunt. He shuffled nervously, running his hand through his hair. “You’re quite tenacious, and I…” He seemed to be struggling for the word. Rose found his awkwardness endearing. “....admire you for that. You don’t give up easily.”
Rose grinned. “You didn’t want to give up on those girls, just like I don’t want to give up on Moira.”
He nodded. “I get that, Rose. But Moira ended up dead. The world would be a sadder place without you in it, Rose Tyler.”
“I appreciate that, Alec, I do,” she told him. Hearing his first name from her lips sounded quite natural and kind, and he didn’t correct her. “Then I hope you appreciate that I’m sincere. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
“I promise you I’ll be careful, Alec,” she murmured. “I hope Kevin comes to his senses.”
“So do I, but i’m not countin’ on it. “Look….if you do see him about again, let me know. And I want you to call me directly, not the station. I don’t trust them to get the message to me. And take a taxi home. I don’t want you walkin’ around.”
“I’ll take a taxi. Don’t worry. I’ll be in touch,” Rose smiled. Hardy nodded and with a final look at her, he walked back towards the station. Taking his advice into consideration, she hailed a passing taxi.
From the window of a nearby pub, Kevin Lawry watched Rose get into a taxi. He held a pint with a shaking hand. Her words echoed in his mind, and he wished he’d never gotten involved. It had all gotten so complicated. His mobile began to buzz in his pocket, but he ignored it. He knew who was calling.
Kevin relaxed as the phone went quiet. The taxi passed by the window. Just as well she’s not out alone tonight, he thought.
His phone buzzed again, and he groaned. He had never had much resolve. With a heavy sigh, he answered it.
Hardy stepped onto the CID floor, and it was at that moment he remembered he’d left to grab food for Miller and himself, and he had planned to call Daisy. Distracted like a lovestruck fool, he thought to himself. “Ugh,” he groaned. He thought briefly of the vending machine downstairs and hoped he could pass that off as a meal, but Miller was already walking towards him, hungry and disgruntled. “Where the hell have you been?” she hissed. “Were you following the food truck around town?”
“No, I was busy. We are in the middle of an investigation,” he told her.
“You were gettin’ food! Blimey, what do you have against me eating?”
“There’s food in the vending machine,” he informed her. She raised her eyebrow, and he ignored the muttered knob as he went on. “After Kevin Lawry left here he ran into Rose Tyler and she talked to him. Tried to guilt him into talking.”
“That’s what was holding you up, you giving her another bollocking?”
“I didn’t exactly give her a bollocking. I told her I was concerned and I don’t want her to get hurt. She’s getting in over her head, just like Moira was. I’d hate for something to end up happening to her…...why are you smiling at me like that?”
Ellie rolled her eyes. “Why do you think, you twat?” she laughed. “I suppose I’ll accept that as a good reason for you to be distracted. Your timing sucks, but when love strikes….”
“What?!” He was infuriated to see her still smiling at him, looking so superior, as if she knew more than he did. “Get back to work.”
Ellie laughed at him. She actually stood there, eyebrow raised, laughing at him. “You’ll need to be sure to find the time to ask her out for a proper date before she heads back to London.”
“Focus, Miller. I want Mike Lawry found tonight,” he ordered. “And get your own food.
Ellie chuckled again and returned to her desk, contemplating one of the more positive developments in a very long week. At least Hardy had something good going on in his life. Hopefully he won’t fuck it up, she thought with a sigh.
“ Did I butter yours?” Rose groaned after she’d gotten out of the taxi. It had been a short ride, but it was just long enough for her to replay the entire conversation in her head. Did I really just say that to him? Blimey! So much for your strict no flirting policy. You’re brilliant, you are. And you called him Alec. He hates that. He didn’t correct me, though. Maybe he likes it. Her face felt warm with embarrassment. At the same time, she felt that familiar swoop in her belly as she recalled how it felt to hold his hand.
The memory of the feeling made her cheeks redden even more. It had been a long time since she’d felt the flutter of those particular butterflies. She thought of John, wondering what he’d think of this taciturn Scotsman. They’d probably have a lot in common, she mused. Both grumpy as hell. They’d probably like each other. Deep in thought, she walked back to her chalet. Do I like him because he reminds me of John? That’s not fair to Alec. I can’t do that to him. Maybe it is time to get back to London. Figure out what I really want. I have no real reason to be here. God, if I could just get it together. Whatever I do, I can’t keep driftin’ like this. She sighed, feeling the migraine that had been threatening for a couple of days begin to really throb behind her left eye. She didn’t suffer from them often, but when she did, it wasn’t pleasant.
She didn’t notice that she’d been watched, and followed. Her mind was too full of Alec Hardy, and in that distracted state, she didn’t pay attention to what was happening around her. Inside, she made a report to her father and tidied up her work area, leaving the copies of her case findings in a folder by her laptop on the desk. She didn’t notice that the window over the desk was open a couple of inches.
“Do you really think we have enough people out looking for Mike Lawry, though?” Ellie questioned. She’d been debating the wisdom of staying back at the station with Hardy for the past twenty minutes.
“He’s not a popular guy. We’ve got people watching for him all over town, and they’ll bring him in if he turns up in Broadchurch. We’ve got eyes watching out for him here to Weymouth. Liverpool, too. We’re focusing on the development with Lily and Cybus Industries.”
“I...just have a weird feeling, I don’t know. Like a premonition, I guess,” Ellie admitted.
“Don’t turn into Steve the Psychic on me, Miller.”
“You’re worried, too, I can tell it,” she argued.
He pressed his lips together. She was right. He wouldn’t tell her that, of course. She probably already knows…. He was jolted out of his thoughts by the vibration of his phone. Checking the screen, he said, “Gotta take this,” as he retreated to his office It was Daisy, and he heaved a sigh of relief. Back at his desk, he immediately typed back, Hi Darlin. You okay? I was worried.
I’m fine. I still want to come home.
Through his office window, he saw Kevin Lawry talking to Ellie and his stomach lurched. I want you to come home when we get all this mess taken care of. This case is about to break wide open. Hang in there just a little longer. I talked to your mum. Dave won’t be a problem anymore.
There was a pause, long enough for Hardy to worry. Through the window he could see Lawry being lead off towards the interview room and Ellie heading in his direction. Defeated, he typed, Something has come up. I will call you.
Ellie leaned in. “Lawry’s here, wanting to talk. I have him in room two.”
Hardy nodded, then quickly typed again. I love you, Daisy. I’ll see you soon. I think this case is close to being over.
Daisy replied OK . Once again, he wished he’d heard her reply so he could gage her mood.
“What’s wrong? You look worse than usual. You feel okay?” Ellie asked.
“Worse than usual? That’s lovely,” he groused as he turned the interview room door knob.
He put his thoughts of Daisy aside as they entered the interview room together, facing Kevin Lawry, who fidgeted in his seat.
“Where is he?” Hardy asked flatly. He was in no mood for messing about.
“He’s out of the country,” Kevin stated. “He got in touch with me and said he’s in America. He’s been there since March.”
“Horseshit,” Hardy growled. “And even if that was true, it still doesn’t get him off the hook for Lily. Try again.”
“It was Joe Miller all long. It was,” Kevin blurted.
Ellie’s eyes narrowed and she hissed, “He’s been sitting in a bloody cell. The bastard’s guilty of plenty of things, but this ain’t one of them. It’s late, I’m tired and hungry, and you’re a fucking liar. Tell. The. Truth.”
Kevin stared at Ellie in shock. He appeared terrified, to Hardy’s satisfaction.
Hardy advised, “I’m gonna remind you that it’s in your best interest to come clean. What does Mike have over you that has you this scared?”
Lawry swallowed. “I came to you. I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t tellin’ the truth. He’s out of the country.”
“Where is he in America, then?”
“He told me Orlando.”
Hardy and Miller looked at each other. “We’ll check into it,” she told him.
“Good. I want him caught,” Kevin stammered.
“If you wanted him caught you wouldn’t be lying through your teeth,” Hardy reminded him. “I believe that you want us to arrest him. Why are you covering for him now? Is he threatening you?”
Kevin shook his head, but he wouldn’t meet their eyes.
“You spoke to a friend of mine, didn’t you?” Hardy asked. “She tried to get you to understand just what Michael’s done. Your brother has hurt people, Kevin. He’s destroyed a family. And you’re covering for him. Why?”
Kevin pressed his lips together, staring hard at the scratched wood grain of the table. His body began to shake with barely surpressed sobs.
“You want him caught,” Ellie said, this time gently. “We can all see it. You are terrified of Mike.”
Kevin rubbed his eyes, shuddering. Taking a deep breath, he confessed, “He’s threatenin’ our mother. She’s in a care home in Sheffield. He told me he’d hurt her if I didn’t do as he said.” Hardy glanced at Miller. Her mouth was twisted in an expression of pure disgust.
“Is he there with her now?” Hardy demanded.
“He’s not in America, we know that,” Ellie told him.
“He’s there,” Kevin blurted. “He always... harassed me and bullied me and I was terrified of him as a child. I did what he told me to do.”
“S’hard to get out of that habit,” Ellie filled in.
He nodded. “I left the hammer because he told me to. Joe gave him the idea of the hut. Not to kill Moira, just to scare her. He was only tryin’ to scare her. He expected her to wake up and…..’
“He’s an EMT, Kevin,” Ellie told him. “He’d know the proper dosage. He meant to kill her. Now, where’s your mum?”
Through his tears he gave them the phone number and address of the care home in Sheffield. Ellie ran to make the call. Kevin put his head down on the table, completely broken, unwilling to talk anymore.
Kevin wasn’t under arrest, but Hardy kept him under the supervision of a PC as he dashed out to find Ellie. “Is he there, then?” he asked her.
“No, but they have officers guarding her now. Her name’s Martha and she’s 87. She doesn’t understand why they’re there and doesn’t remember any visits from Michael lately. Her memory’s dodgy, but the chief security officer at the home says he isn’t aware of any visits. So is Kevin lyin’ again?” She rubbed her dry, exhausted eyes. Glancing at the clock, she saw that it was going on midnight. “Hardy, what the hell do we do now?”
As Hardy was pondering the logistics of holding the one Lawry they did have for being an accessory, Jonas dashed up, like an overeager puppy. “There’s been a couple of people on River Close reporting a man skulkin’ about in their yards. From the description, it could be Mike Lawry.”
Hardy turned to Miller. “I want to go out on this one,” he said.
She nodded in agreement. “What if it’s him?”
As Hardy and Miller struggled with Lawry, Rose struggled with the beginning of a plan. She had sent all her current case information to Pete. After a long talk with her father she had to admit that her heart was torn. She enjoyed helping people, at least until this case had happened. She wondered if going back to school, finishing up the art therapy degree, and quitting detective work would be the best idea.
And then there was Alec Hardy. He was the first man to turn her head since John. The thought of leaving Broadchurch to return home made her panic, just a little. She’d come to enjoy talking to, and sparring with Alec. He was definitely attractive. What if I am ready for this? But what if I’m attracted because his grumpiness reminds me of John a bit? They’re really not all that alike, but what if that is the attraction?
In her heart, she suspected that it wasn’t the case. She genuinely liked Alec, had done so since she met him, even if he had managed to piss her off. He had challenged her in a way the pretty boys she met never did. She suspected that Alec felt the the same way about her.
That was a bit exciting. Her butterflies set flight again. That, accompanied with the migraine that was asserting itself painfully, was making her feel nauseated.
Of course her mum would have told her, “When I met your dad I felt like I was gonna throw up from the nerves and the excitement. And the oysters. We never shoulda gone out for seafood.” Well, there were no oysters involved in this situation, so she wrote that off as the impending migraine. She dug her pain reliever out of her suitcase and took one. Pausing to consider the pain that was creeping up on her, she made the decision to swallow a second one. She knew that the medicine would likely knock her out for at least twelve hours. Hopefully I’ll wake up headache free, with some idea of what the hell I’m doing with my life. And the case will be solved. “Is that too much to ask?”
Yup, probably. But sometimes miracles happen, she thought. And this time, the voice in her head sounded Northern.
Returning to the living room, Rose eyed the sofa. “Y’know, I just decided that I don’t care how big and empty the bed feels. This bloody sofa is too lumpy,” she mumbled, her voice already slurring from the medication. Gathering the duvet up, she marched it into the bedroom. It was tossed haphazardly onto the bed and Rose crawled under it. Rolling over onto her back in the middle, she closed her eyes and did her best to focus on the sound of the water and let it lull her to sleep. It didn’t take long for her eyes to slide closed.
The pills did their job as she settled into a deep sleep. They were quite effective, indeed. She didn’t hear the screen being pulled off, or the creak of the window in the other bedroom as it was forced the rest of the way open about an hour after she’d gone to bed.
Hardy and Miller passed Rose’s chalet on the way to River Close, and he gave it a glance. He hadn’t realized how near Rose lived to the reported break-in.
“What?” Miller asked, noticing Hardy fixating on the small chalets lining the riverside.
“Think I need to check in with Rose?” he said, trying to sound casual.
“Oh,” Ellie said.
“Just oh, that’s all. You’re concerned. Do you think Kevin said anything to Mike about her? Do you think she’ll need protection?”
“Maybe…..I don’t know.”
Ellie pulled into a driveway and backed the car up. “Let’s go check in, then. It’s not that far back.” She drove the car back in the direction they’d just come.
He didn’t argue. Ellie parked the car in an empty spot in the car park for the riverside chalets.
“You’re gonna ask her out, right?” Ellie asked as they got out of the car.
Hardy glared at her. “What, like right now?”
“We’re here on business. Stay focused.” He was fishing his phone out of his pocket. He dialed her number. He was connected to her voice mail. “It’s…” Remembering how pleasant his name had sounded spoken by her, he continued, “It’s Alec.” He ignored Ellie’s widened eyes and sudden snort of laughter. “We...erm….got some information and we’re walking to your house.”
“Way to not freak her out, Alec,” Ellie chuckled. She only laughed harder at his “Ugh” of frustration. .
They were within sight of Rose’s darkened cottage. “She’s probably not even home, or maybe asleep. I wanna check, still, just to make sure that window is locked,” Hardy mumbled as he disconnected the call.
“Hardy, look!” Ellie shouted, pointing frantically.
Now there was a light, a flickering light, shining in the front window. Hardy’s heart began to pound as he recognized the light for what it was. He dialled her again, cursing as her voicemail picked up again. “Rose! Fuckin’ answer the phone….” He glanced at the window again, praying that he was mistaken about what they saw.
Rose’s chalet was burning. The flames were already encroaching the curtains. Hardy swore under his breath as he and Ellie took off running. Ellie was frantically dialing 999 as Hardy reached the front door. He pounded on it frantically. When there was no sign of life Hardy looked into the opened window, jumping back startled as flames engulfed the desk and sofa. It had only been seconds since they’d discovered the fire, but the flames were spreading exponentially.
“Fire squad is on the way!” Ellie yelled. They could already hear sirens in the distance. “Blimey, it could spread to that next house.”
“Go knock on the door and wake ‘’em up,” Hardy ordered, already turning to run around to the back of the house.
“Hardy!” Ellie yelled.
He was already running to the back garden area, where the bedroom windows were.
Chapter 15: Chapter Fifteen
Hardy and Rose deal with the aftermath of the fire.
Thank you, Rose—Nebula, (particularly for catching my one armed Hardy and one armed Rose mistake....😂)
Thanks, readers, for being patient with the cliffhanger. Or mostly patient. I have gotten some entertaining comments...and messages...and hashtags...
Having never been a doctor, I can only say that I tried the best I could to be accurate in the hospital scenes, and in Hardy’s condition. I borrowed bits of my interpretation of Hardy’s heart ailment from a brilliant fic by nannyogg123, called A Million Holes Poked in the Soul. Her Alec is much sicker than mine, but she inspired the idea of him having an ICD inplanted, which is slightly different from how the show presented it. So, please ignore any huge mistakes. I tried.
And now for the big rescue!
The sand was hot under her bare feet, the product of an extended heat wave. It felt good, though, and she took a deep breath of the salty sea air.
The beach appeared deserted, which was odd. Since she’d come to Broadchurch it had been constantly busy with swimmers and fishermen. She shrugged off the confusion and walked down to the water’s edge.
Rose noticed a sailboat on the horizon, its deep blue sail filled with wind. She longed to be on the boat. As soon as the thought of it crossed her mind, a voice with a northern accent spoke behind her. “Lovely day for a sail.”
She whirled around to see John standing on the beach, smiling at her. He wore his green jumper with his dark jeans and leather jacket. He looked utterly beautiful in the sunlight, with the cliffside as a backdrop. She crossed the hot sand to him.
Her mind told her it was impossible even as she spoke to him. “Bout time you got here, Doctor,”
“Ah, relatively speakin’, I’m right on time.” Even with the wind blowing and the waves crashing she could hear him as clearly as if had been standing right next to him.
Rose grinned. “Relatively speakin’, of course.”
“Seems like you found a lovely place for a holiday. Not as gorgeous as Barcelona, though. Always wanted to take you there, me.”
“Couldn’t we go right now?” Rose asked as she approached him.
“Ah, Rose Tyler. It’d be lovely if we could.” His smile was sad, and Rose took his hand.
“I know. Things are different now,” she sighed.
“At first it was bad different. Horribly bad different, actually. But now it’s just….. different.” She shrugged, gazing up at him.
John nodded understandingly. “Got yourself into a bit of a jam here in Broadchurch, I take it?” He grinned at her. “You’re the best. You’ll get through it. Just don’t do it alone. Get a friend to help you. Although...I think you might already have one.”
Rose’s eyes widened. “I might, but how did you know?”
“‘Cos I do. And don’t be all sad about it with me, ‘cos I’m glad you do.”
“‘Course I am, Rose Tyler. I always want the best for you, and I think you found it. You’re in the right place, at the right time, and you met the right person. How could I not want that for you? It’s fantastic.”
Rose’s lips pressed together, trying to hold back the tears she could feel forming. “I want you to have a place in my heart, Doctor. Always.”
“Wouldn’t want it any other way. But maybe, it’s time you let me take up a little less room there, so you can make room for someone else. Or maybe...You might find your heart is bigger on the inside and there’s still plenty of room.”
These words made Rose’s tears bloom and fall. “Yeah,” she murmured.
“I want you to have a fantastic life, Rose. Do that for me. Have a fantastic life.” He reeled her in for an embrace and she melted into it. It was so vivid. She could feel the wool of his jumper under her cheek, the weight of his arms around her. She could even smell the leather of his jacket. She wanted to immerse herself in the sensation.
But even as she felt all that, she became aware of other sensations. Heat. Somebody must have built a bonfire on the beach because now the wind had shifted and she could smell the smoke from it. It made her cough, just a bit, and John’s grip on her loosened. She looked up to see him gazing at her in concern. “What is it?” she asked.
“I want you to be happy, Rose Tyler, but if you’re gonna, you’d better get off this beach.” He looked away from her, frowning. “I mean it, Rose. You need to wake up.”
“I don’t want to just yet. You’ll be gone when I do,” Rose argued.
His expression was stern, but frightened. “Time for you to go on and have that fantastic life. And tell Hardy I said he’d better do right by you. Now wake up, Rose Tyler, before it’s too late for both of you!”
His voice was fading, and new sensations were replacing the feel of his arms around her. She startled when she heard a crackling sound and glass breaking. The northern voice was replaced by a Scottish burr. Someone was shaking her shoulder.
“Dammit, Rose, come on! Fire! Get up! C’mon, we gotta go out the window!”
The sound of Hardy’s voice jolted her out of her dream at last. She sat up to see a hellish scene.
The glass in the transom over the bedroom door had broken and hungry flames had encroached the space. In the flickering firelight she saw Hardy, who had covered his mouth and nose against the smoke. His breathing was labored. She bounded out of bed and slipped her feet into her trainers. He was grasping her hand already, pulling her towards the open window by her bed. She had time to grab her own phone, but nothing else. Coughing, her eyes stinging, she followed him. They clutched hands like Hansel and Gretel lost in in a dark forest. It was only a few steps to the window, but it felt like a marathon.
“Watch out for the broken glass,” he directed, coughing, as he pushed her towards safety. She stepped through the window, looking back. Rose saw the flames invading the room and Hardy back lit by them. She screamed, “Alec!” and pulled him with her.
They both fell to the ground just outside the window. They heaved great gasps of the fresher, cooler air outside the burning chalet.
“Oh, my God,” another voice called out. It was Ellie. She ran over to crouch down by them. “Oh, you knob!” she gasped at Hardy. “I turned around for a second and you were gone!….Come on before the place fuckin’ explodes!” Grabbing their arms to pull them away, Ellie nodded towards the gate. Hardy and Rose stood up shakily and followed her. When they were safely away, Rose looked back to see her bedroom engulfed.
Hardy dropped to the ground, coughing. Rose crouched down next to him. “Alec,” she cried. “Oh, God, are you okay?” Instinctively she wrapped her arms around him, pulling him into an embrace.
Hardy was surprised by the sudden move but didn’t pull away. He draped an arm around her shoulders even as his body shook with another coughing fit. He rubbed his chest absently, looking up at Ellie, who was waving frantically at someone.
“Alec,” Rose repeated as she began to cough.
“M’fine, it’s okay,” he rasped. “Are you?”
“You shouldn’t have gone in there,” Rose admonished, beginning to cry. “You could have been killed!”
“Not gonna let you burn to death,” he shot back. “Didja wake the other people?” He bellowed the last at Ellie.
“Yeah, that’s what I was doin’ whilst you were pullin’ her out!” Ellie snapped. “Over here!” She shouted over the sound of the flames and glass breaking as the fire breached the last remaining windows. The little chalet would be a complete loss. It had all transpired in a matter of minutes.
“Miller, I don’t need...have them look at Rose first!” Hardy ordered before he was seized by another violent coughing fit. He could see Rose slumping over and he wondered if she was losing consciousness. Ellie waved the medics over. Rose let go of Hardy. He was vaguely aware of two things: he didn’t like the feeling of Rose letting him go, and his chest was tightening. He briefly thought, Fuck it, c’mon, not now.
“They were both in there a good while,” he heard Ellie saying. Hardy saw the tear tracks on her cheeks illuminated by the firelight.
“Not that long,” Hardy argued, knowing that wouldn’t placate Ellie at all. She didn’t appear to be listening to him anyway.
Alec just wanted to get closer to where the medics were caring for Rose, but he was stuck where he was, having an oxygen mask foisted upon him. Miller wouldn’t shut up, reminding them about the pacemaker. He glowered at the EMT who rolled his eyes and said, “Oh, trust me, we know him.”
“I don’t need a bloody stretcher…” he tried to argue, but it was of no use. He turned his head to see Rose, very much not liking the dizziness he felt. He was relieved to see that she was sitting up straighter, also wearing an oxygen mask.
The roof of the chalet partially collapsed, startling them all. Ellie let loose with a string of profanity. Hardy rubbed at his chest absently as the EMT began to hook him up to a heart monitor. He tried to focus on Rose’s face but she was blurry. He recognised the sensation of an impending defibrillator discharge. Hearing the EMT give the order to go, Hardy felt the stretcher move.
Ellie hurried over to Rose, glancing back at the medics retreating towards the ambulance with Hardy. She sent up a prayer that his luck would hold out, and that the pacemaker and defibrillator would give him an advantage he didn’t have during the Latimer case. She shuddered, remembering the sight of him, being resuscitated after that bastard Joe had forced him into a chase. She often wondered if Joe had done that on purpose.
She knelt by Rose, who was trembling despite the heat of the fire. Rose stared, wide eyed, as the ambulance lights began to rotate. “He’s got nine lives, y’know,” Ellie reassured her. Rose made to remove the mask to talk, but the medic stopped her. “Leave it on, and rest. He’ll be okay, I promise.” Ellie could see the tears on Rose’s face, reflected in the flickering light. She took her hand, and they watched as the ambulance pulled away.
“There’s another ambulance two minutes out, DS Miller,” the medic informed her.
Ellie’s phone had been constantly tied up with calls for the first thirty minutes after Rose’s ambulance had arrived at hospital. She’d ridden with her, but they had parted ways as Rose was hurried in. The calls were already coming with the police station wanting updates she couldn’t give, Beth wondering what had happened, and Tom checking in. Finally, she had a quiet moment and ducked inside, running straight to the desk.
In short order she found out that Rose was being monitored in one of the A & E beds but Hardy had been taken straight to cardiac care, having had a minor episode of arrhythmia in the ambulance that needed further monitoring. The EMT who knew her from her married days had told her that in confidence.
She heard Rose before she saw her. Her voice was raspy, but she was demanding to know what was going on with Hardy. Ellie approached her as Rose attempted to sit up, her efforts hampered by the monitor wires and oxygen cannula. “Ellie, tell ‘em, I’m fine, I need to see him.”
“You two are the most stubborn people I’ve ever met, and that’s sayin’ somethin’,” Ellie told her. “He’s okay. I’m gonna tell you somethin’ neither one of us is supposed to know.” She glanced at the nurse who rolled her eyes.
“I didn’t hear anything,” the exhausted nurse sighed, as she continued to chart.
“Hardy’s ICD had to discharge and correct an arrhythmia, which hasn’t happened in a while, so they’re keeping him overnight to watch him.”
Rose began to cry, covering her eyes. “Dammit, if it wasn’t for me, he….”
Ellie sat on the bed, pulling Rose into a hug. “Now, quit blamin’ yourself. It isn’t your fault.”
“That fire was set to get rid of me. How’s it not my fault?” She began to sob then, and Ellie held her as she shook.
After a bit Rose disentangled herself from Ellie’s arms. She started to remove the nasal cannula and Ellie began to protest.
“Nope, you rest. You’ll get up there to see him soon,” Ellie reassured her.
“If he doesn’t check himself out before that,” the nurse groused, having had many dealings with Hardy’s propensity towards hospital breakouts.
Rose’s eyes widened and she swung her legs over the side of the bed, ready to rise. “Need to get up there, now,” she muttered. “How do I….” she muttered, pulling the nasal cannula out and getting the tube tangled with the oxygen monitor attached to her finger.
Ellie groaned. “You’re just as bad as the wanker up in cardiac….”
Rose was determined. “M’m goin’ up to the bloody cardiac ward. If I get into trouble there’s bloomin’ oxygen everywhere!”
“At least let me find a doctor,” Ellie admonished.
After a conversation with a harried A & E nurse who’d come running when Rose’s monitors stopped functioning, The doctor on duty evaluated Rose and reluctantly allowed her to go. It wasn’t long before Rose was released. “Do you at least want me to find you some clean clothes first?” Ellie asked her.
Rose looked down at her soot stained pajamas and shook her head. “No, I’m fine for now. I need to get upstairs to Alec.”
“Follow me, then,” Ellie sighed, leading her to the lift. They were silent for the short ride up to the cardiac floor. Rose fidgeted, watching the floor numbers ascend. When the door opened she hurried off. Ellie followed, gently gripping her upper arm to stop her. “Hang on, Rose, I know that nurse.” She strode to the nurse’s station, and spoke to him while Rose waited nervously. Eventually, Ellie nodded her over.
“He fell asleep before he could get up to check himself out. He was pretty determined to get downstairs to Ms. Tyler, but he’s also exhausted,” he told them. “He needs to be monitored through the night, so we don’t want him leaving. He’s had one episode of arrhythmia in the ambulance and another downstairs, but things seem to have calmed down for the time being.”
“We’ll make sure he stays,” Rose assured him.
Ellie rolled her eyes, knowing Alec Hardy all too well. “We’ll make a valiant attempt, at any rate.” The nurse chuckled and waved them on by. Looking at Rose, Ellie snorted, “You’re just as bad as he is, you know that? Bad health decisions all over the place. You deserve each other.”
Hardy was resting in the first bed in the ward. His heart monitor beeped steadily, much to Ellie’s and Rose’s relief. He looked too pale, though, and his face was partially covered by an oxygen mask.
Rose sighed shakily. “He could’ve died.”
“He’s gonna be okay, Rose. He’s so much healthier than he was when I first met him.” She patted Rose’s arm.
Rose sighed, then a thought occurred to her. “Oh, you’ve gotta get home to your boys, Ellie. You don’t have to babysit us,” Rose protested.
“I’ll be the judge of that,” Ellie chuckled. “I don’t intend to spend the night. I’ll run home to check the kids, take a quick kip, then I’ll bring you some clothes. I’ll have to run by the chalet, too, to see what the Arson Division and SOCO’s found out.” She sighed. “And I’ll need to coordinate the manhunt if this one’s out for the night. If he wakes up while I’m gone, you tell him I have it under control. I don’t want his grumpy arse in the office until he’s better. Forget the kip, I guess.”
Rose nodded and sighed tiredly. “I’ll need to get in touch with Dad. Mum’ll have kittens, no doubt. My phone hasn’t come back on, though. Might be a complete loss.”
“I can get in touch with your dad. Let ‘im know you’re okay,” Ellie offered. “I’ll let Hardy’s daughter know what’s happened, too.”
“I’d appreciate you callin’ my dad. I’m stayin’ here in Broadchurch ‘til we’ve seen this through. Let him know that. And that I’ll call him in the mornin’.”
Ellie patted Rose’s shoulder. “Think you’ll be okay if I step out and start makin’ some of these calls?” Rose nodded. “M’gonna see if I can get you a blanket, if you’re settlin’ in.”
“I am. Thank you so much, Ellie. For being such a good friend.”
Ellie smiled and patted her arm. “You were there for me, too.”
Rose studied Alec, who lay still and silent. It was hard to reconcile what she was seeing with the man she’d come to know, the man who could command the room, who always moved about with purpose, usually disgruntled. She thought of what Ellie had told her, of how sick he’d been before. She swallowed around the lump in her throat, full of guilt for having put him through this ordeal. His hand rested on top of the blanket and she reached out for it as the tears began to flow again.
It seemed to ground her, holding his hand. Through her tears, she realized how starved for that touch she’d been. John’s hand had always fit hers perfectly.
Alec’s did, too. That was something to think about.
Before she could dwell on the implications of that, the nurse came in, smiling at Rose. She pulled a chair out from the corner and lay a blanket on it, then she went to work checking Alec’s vitals. Rose draped the blanket over her shoulders and sat in the plastic chair. “Is he gonna be all right?” she murmured.
The nurse answered, “This one has nine lives. He’ll be okay.” After a bit she left, and Rose reached for Alec’s hand again.
“That seems to be a popular opinion about you, Alec Hardy,” Rose murmured.
She realized how exhausted she was and put her head down on the mattress, closing her eyes, not letting go of him.
Rose was jolted awake by voices and for a second she thought perhaps something had gone wrong, that Alec was in distress, and she sat up panicked.
The cardiologist and the nurse didn’t look concerned, though. Rose stood up shakily and stepped back as they did their work, evaluating his condition. In her half-asleep, nervous state what they were saying really made no sense. But the doctor smiled at Rose and strode out of the room as the nurse efficiently relieved Alec of the oxygen mask and replaced it with a nasal cannula.
Alec began to stir then. His eyes blinked open and he looked around the room, his eyes wide. “Bloody hell,” he muttered, realizing where he was. He squinted at the nurse so comically that Rose chuckled. “H’llo, J..Jane, is it?”
The nurse rolled her eyes. “Julianna. You’re stayin’ for at least another eight hours.”
Alec groaned. “I feel fine.”
“I’ll make sure he stays,” Rose announced, and Alec’s head whipped around to see her properly. “You’re not gonna break into my burning cottage and drag me out just to escape the hospital and then die somewhere. Close your eyes and go back to sleep.”
“Why aren’t you in A & E ?” he asked bluntly.
“I broke out to come see you.”
“You’re a fine one to be lecturin’, then.”
Rose enjoyed the way his brogue thickened, and she grinned a bit. “Technically I’m still in hospital.” She sat down beside him and Julianna gave her a grin of commiseration and left.
She hesitated for a second then took his hand again. He glanced at her, wide-eyed, as if confused by this, but then he entwined his fingers with hers and relaxed.
“So…..sorry about the chalet,” Rose wanted to cringe at her lame attempt at small talk.
“I don’t live there anymore,” he pointed out. “And, I often thought about takin’ the damn friggin’ cheery nautical decorations out and burnin’ ‘em.” Rose laughed through a yawn. “See, you need some proper rest.”
“M’fine,” Rose argued, observing him yawning as well. “Thank you, Alec.”
He gave her a small smile and nodded towards the door. “You go get some sleep, Rose.”
“I can rest my head right here. I don’t really have any place to go at the moment. And besides, I’m not quite ready to let you out of my sight just yet,” she murmured. Their gazes locked and his hand squeezed hers.
“All righ’,” Alec murmued, his eyes falling shut.
Rose felt the weight of exhaustion settle on her as well as she rested her head on the mattress again.
It was just before sunrise when Ellie, bearing a bag of clothes, could get back to Hardy and Rose. Julianna passed Ellie on the way in. “I’m about to go off duty and he’s still in the bed. Maybe she’s what we need to keep him in one place long enough to take care of him.”
“She deserves a reward,” Ellie agreed, approaching Hardy’s bed. She beamed as she discovered Rose, in the chair, her head on the bed. Her fingers were linked with Hardy’s.
Hardy grumbled low in his throat and his eyes fluttered open. His eyes fell first on the top of Rose’s head and then up at Ellie’s knowing smirk. “What?” he grumbled.
“What?” Ellie mocked back.
“You’ve got that look on your face,” he accused her in a whisper.
Ellie gave him an innocent smile and asked, “What look?”
Hardy rolled his eyes as Rose began to stir. “Mmmm...Hi, Ellie,” she murmured.
Ellie snorted laughter. “Hi. My friend Beth sent you some fresh clothes, Rose. She saw the fire and wanted to help when she heard what had happened.”
Alec let go of Rose’s hand and began to sit up. He was briefly entangled in tubes. Removing the nasal cannula, he began to fire off questions as if he wasn’t just lying in a hospital bed. “What time is it? Gotta get back to the office. Have you found Lawry yet? What’s going on with the investigation? Where’s my phone?” He began to pull off the heart monitor leads with a practiced hand, causing Rose and Ellie to wince at the sound of the adhesive pulling off his chest. It was seconds later when a nurse dashed in to assess him.
“I’m getting the doctor. You’re not going anywhere yet,” the nurse told Hardy, wielding her stethoscope at him. After she made a quick assessment, she left with a renewed warning not to leave. Ellie picked up the thread of the conversation.
“I don’t know where your phone is, I’ve got people on the investigation. I have talked to SOCO and Arson Investigator Brown.” Hardy groaned. “We always say that Brown puts the arse in arson. Worse than this one on a bad day,” Ellie explained to Rose.
“Oi,” Hardy said, disgruntled.
“Anyway...they’re still puttin’ hot spots out. He’s pretty confident that accelerant was poured over the furniture in the front room, since everything went up so quickly. You both were bloomin’ lucky to get out.”
“They wanted the evidence gone and Rose dead?” Hardy surmised. “I reckon it was Mike Lawry, then? Kevin was still at the police station when the fire started.”
The revelation made Rose shudder.
“Talked with your dad, too,” Ellie told her. “You were so diligent about uploading the case files that the arsonist, whether it was Lawry or not, was an idiot to think he could get rid of the evidence. Bastard almost killed two people and put all the rental properties on that road in jeopardy for no reason. ” Ellie shook her head in wonder at the stupidity.
“All my case records were on the desk by the window. He could’ve just grabbed them instead of burning the place down,” Rose pointed out.
“Flair for the dramatic. He didn’t have to kill Moira the way he did. He could’ve just handed her the needle,” Hardy said.
Then Ellie went on, “You need to call your mum, by the way. News of the fire’s been on Twitter.”
“Oh, blimey. Daisy has probably seen it. Where’s my bleedin’ phone?” Hardy demanded.
“I texted her and told her you were fine,” Ellie said. “She hasn’t responded yet but at least she knows. I’ve pulled Harford, Jonas and a couple of others from the robberies.” Ellie smirked. “Evans now thinks it’s ‘prudent to prioritize our resources to the Burton case’. And that’s a direct quote.” Ellie clapped her hands together. “Now. I have fresh clothes for both of you. Once you get out of here, Hardy, Evans wants you at home, recuperating.”
“I suppose I’ll be looking for other accommodations,” Rose sighed. “‘Cos I’m not leaving. Mum can send me some clothes and anything else I can buy.”
Hardy paused for a moment, thinking through the possibilities. “No. You’re comin’ with me. I don’t want you on your own in Broadchurch, not when we don’t know where Lawry is. He’s panickin’, and he’ll make a mistake soon. But in the meantime, I want you safe.”
“Can’t sleep at the police station, Alec. Unless you want to put me in a cell,” Rose chuckled.
“You’re comin’ back to mine. I have an extra room. I’ll run the investigation from my livin’ room, and you’ll be safe.” Before Rose could argue the point, he said, “M’not ready to let you out of my sight just yet.” Rose’s eyes widened as he reached out to grasp her hand. She squeezed back.
Ellie cleared her throat, her eyebrow raised. Before Hardy could address her smugness, she told them, “I’ll track down your belongings and see how long it is before you can get out of here, then.” She wandered away from them, grinning.
When Ellie was out of earshot, Rose told him, “I can’t put you in danger! It’s too much of an imposition….”
Hardy interrupted, “It would be too much of an imposition for me to be worryin’ if you’re safe.”
Rose pressed her lips together, frustrated. “Just...just for today, then I’m out of your hair. I can call for some backup from Torchwood. Jack could be here by nightfall.”
Alec arched an eyebrow, feeling simultaneously jealous and ridiculous. “Oh. Okay, I see. Jack could do that.” The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. He was further embarrassed by Rose’s small smirk.
“That is, if Jack’s husband lets him,” Rose muttered. She caught the moment her words registered with Alec and she couldn’t resist smiling. “I wanna know what’s going on in the investigation, too. Everything.”
Hardy sighed mightily. It went against procedure and also everything he believed about the legitimacy of private detectives to do it, but he nodded. Rose had made some mistakes, and was certainly still an amateur, but she was clever. He doubted they would have gotten as far as they had so quickly without her help. “Fine.”
Ellie returned, carrying a plastic bag. “Got your things, Hardy, but there was no phone in there. I’m wonderin’ if you dropped it in Rose’s cottage.”
“If I did, it’s gone now. Dammit,” Hardy swore. “Did Daisy ever return your text? Tell her I lost my phone. I don’t want her worryin’.”
“Do you want me to call Tess?” Ellie asked.
“Fuck no,” Hardy said so vehemently it made both of the women laugh. “Just...text Daisy.”
“Got your lodging situation worked out, then?” Ellie said lightly.
Rose looked away, smiling. “So...you said there were some fresh clothes? I’ll go get changed now.” Ellie handed her the clothes she’d brought, and Rose set off in search of a loo.
“This is some sort of record, you stayin’ in hospital this long. Rose Tyler is a good influence on you. Look, I got you a t-shirt and jeans so you won’t have to wear that smoky suit,” Ellie commented.
“How’d you get that?”
“Took your keys.” Ellie was altogether too pleased with herself.
Hardy glared at her, accepting the jeans and t-shirt she offered him.
In the loo, Rose closed herself into a stall and changed into the leggings and t-shirt Beth had sent. The clothes were stretchy and comfortable, and decidedly cleaner than the soot-stained pajamas she’d been wearing. Her mind drifted to thoughts of the fire. It was frightening how deeply the headache medicine had made her sleep. If Alec hadn’t gotten there when he did...oh, God, what if I’d decided to sleep on the sofa again. Would I have heard the intruder? I could’ve burned to death before Alec ever got in….. She shuddered at the thought.
Once she was dressed, she checked her phone again. Hoping that it would work, she pressed the button. It blinked into life, and the screen showed no less than twenty texts and missed calls, all from her parents. She left the loo and found a waiting room, settling in for what promised to be a very long phone call. She dialed and the phone was answered midway though the second ring. “Rose? Oh, my God, you could’ve been killed! I knew this would be dangerous. You dad is on my shit list for puttin’ you in that position….”
Rose groaned, then spoke while her mother took a breath. “Mum, No! He had no idea the case would go like this! None of us did! Don’t you dare be cross with him!”
“You could’ve been burned to death!” Jackie screeched.
“M’ glad I don’t have you on speaker. You’d wake all the coma patients…”
“Oi, Rose Marion!”
“Mum. Just stop. I’m fine. All my things….well, they’re gone. I’ll need you to send me some clothes, I suppose. Send me my duffle, too. I guess my blue suitcase is gone.” Her heart gave a little lurch. John had given her that suitcase for their travels. “…..Phone’s workin’ so I suppose I can send my case reports that way….”
“You’re comin’ home. You’ll be safe there,” Jackie ordered.
Rose could hear the refusal to argue the point in her mother’s tone, but she ventured on anyway. “No. I have a place to stay. We’ll have the murderer caught soon, I’m sure. He’s panickin’. He’ll make a mistake.” She found herself echoing Alec’s words, which would have amused her if Mum hadn’t been in the throes of her own panic.
“And that’s supposed to make me feel better? Where are you stayin’?”
“I have safe lodging,” Rose hedged.
“Not a hotel. Don’t trust the security. I can have your dad send someone.”
“I’m...under police guard.”
“Well, that never works in the movies. What about that detective I spoke to? Can he do somethin’? It said in that news story on Twitter that he rescued you! Did that really happen?”
Rose squeezed her eyes shut tiredly. “Yes, he did. But...I don’t want to get into the details right now, okay, Mum?”
“Well, I intend to thank him. He saved my daughter. Is he around? I’d love to thank him personally…..”
Rose groaned again, quietly, and let her mother ramble on about Hardy’s heroics and how all her neighbors had heard about her daughter’s misfortune. It was another fifteen minutes before an exhausted Rose could end the call with the promise that she’d text Jackie the address of her lodgings, still not telling her that she was sharing space with Alec. She didn’t have the energy to deal with that.
Chapter 16: Chapter Sixteen
Rose and Hardy comfort each other after returning to his house.
Thanks, as always to Rose--Nebula, who pointed out a detail I hadn't thought of.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Hardy was becoming impatient. The cardiologist had cleared him to leave since his heart rhythm had remained steady all night. He was expected to come in for a follow up visit soon, but his vitals looked good. He had sent Miller out to find Rose while he took a quick shower, washing away the smoke smell.
It did nothing for his frustration when she returned with the news that she was on the phone with her mother. “That’ll take a while,” he groused as he towel dried his hair. “Has Daisy texted you back? This is ridiculous. Before I go home I’m stopping off to get a phone. I can’t work without one, and I need to get in touch with Daisy.” He paced back and forth in the small area, agitated. Ellie sighed, earning a glare from Hardy.
“What?” he snapped.
“The cardiologist is gonna slap a cardiac monitor on you and sentence you to another overnight stay if you don’t watch it. Settle down. And no, she hasn’t texted me back. I wouldn’t read too much into that. I think it’s her being a teen.”
Hardy stretched out his hand, silently demanding her phone.
“Blimey, you become a toddler when you’re impatient,” Ellie muttered, handing over her mobile.
Hardy opened his mouth to debate her assertion, but Rose hurried in. “Mum,” she said in explanation. “She’s good at wearing people out…..” Her voice trailed off as her eyes widened.
He looked behind him, wondering what Rose was staring at. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, he looked back to her and said, “Ready to go, then? They let me out. Rose?”
She was still staring at him, gobsmacked. He looked down at his gray t-shirt and jeans, finally cottoning on to what she was looking at. He felt the heat creeping up his neck and heard Ellie’s chuckle. “Um..reckon we’d better go, he muttered as he wadded up the wet towel in his hand.
Rose, finally finding her voice, mumbled, “Good idea.”
For some reason that made Ellie laugh harder.
In Sandbrook, as Alec, Ellie and Rose were speculating about the fire and waiting for him to be released from the hospital, Tess Henchard’s front door slammed as she bellowed at her former lover. He was retreating to his car parked in front of the house at a run, as if he expected Tess to throw something.
Daisy stood by the stairs, pale and shaking, trying to make sense of what Dave had just revealed. He had come by, after first stopping by the local pub for an early binge, and gotten into a row with first Tess, then Daisy.
He had confirmed what Daisy had already known in her heart. She supposed she shouldn’t really be shocked by Dave’s revelation of her mother’s infidelity to her father. But hearing it shouted at her made it real, and it had shaken her to her core.
Tess turned to her daughter. “Daisy….” she began, walking toward her, arms extended to embrace her.
"Were you shaggin' him when you were married to Dad?" Daisy asked, backing away. She didn’t want Tess’ comfort. Daisy stared at her mother, who looked hurt by her rejection.
Good, let her be hurt,
Daisy thought spitefully.
"You know better than to believe a word Dave says. He's angry and drunk, he'll say anything."
"Dave isn't smart enough to make up a story like that. You didn't answer me. Were you shaggin' him? Never mind. Dave told me the truth. Dad was sick and you were screwing around. You fucked up that murder investigation, not Dad. It's all true." She delivered this speech flatly.
"Language, Daisy," Tess said out of habit. Daisy rolled her eyes.
She squared her shoulders and glared at her mother, speaking a single word, "Why?" In her fury, she wasn't sure if she could find the words to ask all the questions floating around in her mind.
“Why what?” Tess demanded.
“Take your pick of questions….Why did you cheat on Dad? Why did you lie about him when he moved out? Why did bloody
have to be the one to tell me?”
"We only wanted what was best for you, Daisy," Tess asserted. "He wasn't in any shape to be a father. You needed stability."
"No, I needed parents. Two. Whether together or apart, I needed two parents who could tell me the bloody truth!"
"You were too young to know what you needed. I did what was best for you. You were in no way ready to deal with what was going on."
"I believe I could have coped! I went months, knowing something was wrong with Dad. I went months wondering if you were going to tell me either Dad was dying or you were divorcin’!" Her voice had gone up an octave in her fury. "Turns out it was both!" Then she turned the full brunt of her anger on Tess. “How dare you do that to Dad."
"You didn’t need to know the details," Tess argued.
"Well, I know now!" Daisy paused, and then said shakily, "Maybe I always knew. Maybe I suspected it and I just didn't want to believe my mother would ever shag somebody behind Dad's back while he was so sick. You were supposed to be better than that!"
Tess shouted, "I didn't know anything was wrong because your father didn't tell me. He shut me out, Daisy. He's not entirely innocent in all this!"
"You couldn't fucking tell he was sick? I knew somethin’ was wrong! Were you hopin' he just wouldn't wake up one morning? Maybe if he just died you could play the grieving widow and Dave could swoop in and be the hero."
Considering that it was the sound of a relationship breaking, perhaps forever, the sound of Tess' palm on Daisy's cheek was small and flat. Tess immediately looked distraught, Daisy closed her eyes and cupped her cheek with her own hand. Tess began to speak, but Daisy shook her head and pushed past her to go upstairs. As her mother called her name, Daisy fished her phone out of her back pocket and dialled her dad, hoping she could finally get to talk to him. The stress of hearing the news of the fire, coupled with Dave’s revelation, had broken her. His voicemail picked up, and Daisy burst into tears as she slammed her bedroom door behind her, turning the lock before throwing herself onto her bed.
It wasn’t long before she heard a knock.
“Go away!” she shrieked.
“Daisy...sweetheart, I’m sorry I slapped you...can I please come in. We need to talk.” The doorknob rattled.
“Leave me alone,” Daisy ordered.
“Sweetie, I have to go to work now. Can we talk when I get home? Please.”
Daisy lay silently on her bed, refusing to answer.
Her mother tried to persuade her to open the door for another five minutes. Her heart hardened, Daisy refused to feel sorry for her even as she heard her sobs. She tuned Tess out as she began to make plans. Picking up her phone again, she texted Chloe Latimer.
Outside her daughter’s door, Tess fought to catch her breath through her silent sobs. Once she calmed a bit, she considered calling Alec, to tell him the boom had finally lowered and Daisy knew all. She knows all from Dave’s point of view. I just need to convince her that Dave was lying. That’s all. The last bloody thing I want to do is involve Alec. He doesn’t need to know. Yet, anyway.
Her phone buzzed. It was work, demanding her presence. She decided to let Daisy cool off for a few hours, then try to talk to her again. She hoped she’d be able to get through to her. Her anger flared again at Dave for getting drunk because he wasn’t getting his way. And she found herself hating Alec again, for putting her in the situation to begin with. She briefly considered her own responsibility in the situation and shut that thought down immediately.
After a trip to a mobile phone store, which was much more frustrating and took an hour longer than Hardy would have liked, Ellie took them back to his house. There was a police car sitting within sight of the front door. “Who arranged for that?” Hardy grumbled.
“I did, and don’t argue it,” Ellie told him, following them into the house.
“I can handle things just fine,” Hardy argued.
“You’re still recuperating. It’s like an extra layer of protection. And don’t think about callin’ them off,” Ellie warned him. “Now, I’ll leave you to get settled in. Need to check on my boys, then head back to work.”
“Ellie, you haven’t seen them all night, have you? Thanks….for everything. Get some rest, please,” Rose pleaded.
“Stay home with ‘em a while. That’s an order,” Hardy told her.
Ellie gave them a small smile and wave and left, closing the door behind her. Hardy locked the deadbolt.
“I hate that. She’ll go home and get some sleep, right?” Rose asked, watching Ellie retreat to her car.
“I hope. Can’t make her, but…” Hardy shrugged. “Well...come on into the lounge. I can make tea, if you want.” He gestured awkwardly to the sofa. “Sit there...or..wherever…” He shuffled off to the kitchen. As he filled the kettle and set it to boil, he found himself talking to fill in the silence, much like Ellie would’ve done. Now that Rose was in his home, he didn’t quite know what to do.
Rose perched on the sofa. She picked up a framed picture on the end table next to her. “Is this your daughter?” she asked.
Alec smiled. “Yeah. That’s my Daisy. She’s almost 17.”
“She’s beautiful. I like her name,” Rose said with a grin.
“She’s named after a Beatles song,” he said as he put the kettle on to boil.
“There’s a song about a daisy?” Rose looked genuinely confused.
Alec chuckled. “She’s named after the line about the clouds being a daisy chain in Dear Prudence. My ex-wife nixed Prudence as a name, so I suggested that.”
“The sun is up, the sky is blue,” Rose sang, trailing off when she caught his eye. She had a lovely voice, and his heart rate sped up pleasantly at the sound of her.
“It’s beautiful and so are you,” he finished. He blushed and became very interested In his tea kettle. There was an awkward pause, then they both laughed quietly.
“I like that song, too,” she confessed, then she thoroughly broke the building mood by yawning hugely.
“I think you need sleep more than tea,” Hardy told her.
“M’fine. I should be makin’ the tea. You just got released from the cardiac ward. Shouldn’t be takin’ care of me.”
“You were in hospital too,” he pointed out.
“You were worse off. Seriously, do you just walk out of the hospital whenever you have a heart episode?” She leaned back against the cushions, getting comfortable.
“Just like you check yourself out of A & E whenever you’re involved in a traumatic event?” He raised his eyebrow. “You’re no better than I am, then. And I haven’t had a heart episode in over a year.”
Rose sighed, eyes downcast. “Until you pulled me out of a burning cottage. What were you thinkin’, Alec Hardy?” She looked up at him through lowered lashes.
“I was thinkin’ there was no way Rose Tyler was dyin’ in a fire.” They gazed at each other for a long moment before she broke eye contact, shuddering.
“Waking up to that was.....hellish. I took migraine medicine and it always knocks me out cold. If you hadn’t come when you did…..Thank you, Alec.”
Alec shrugged. Frustrated to be blushing yet again, he wasn’t sure of how to answer her, so he tried smiling at her. His grin faded when he noticed her beginning to cry.
“Aw, Rose, now…” He hastily crossed the room to her.
“Your daughter could’ve lost her dad.” she cried, her shoulders slumped. “I feel horrible about that.”
He sat down next to her, his brain completely unable to process what to do next. He stammered, “Well, you didn’t set the fire.” He winced at his eloquence and Rose burst out laughing through her tears. She leaned against him, putting her head on his shoulder. He stared at the top of her head for a moment, then hesitantly draped his arm around her, giving her an awkward hug. Bracing himself for the inevitable rejection, he was surprised when she snuggled in closer. Her breathing evened out as she calmed.
“That was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life,” she murmured. “The car accident in Croatia was horrific, but waking up to the smoke and flames and heat…..”
“I know,” Alec agreed. “It was terrifyin’ goin’ into it.”
“And still, you did it,” she whispered.
“I did.” He hoped he was giving her some kind of comfort, even if his brain still wasn’t functioning enough to know the right thing to say. He rested his head on hers, telling himself it was just added contact for more comfort, not quite ready to admit that it was more for him than her at that moment.
Rose sighed again, then yawned.
“Tea or a kip?” he offered.
“I think the kip, actually,” she said.
“Yeah, the tea can wait.” He gingerly let go of her and got up to turn the kettle off. By the time he turned back to look at Rose. She was stretching out on the sofa, Daisy’s yellow and black plaid blanket draped around her shoulders.
“C’mon, off to bed. You need a more comfortable place to rest.” He walked over to her.
“The sofa’s fine, really. Don’t go to any trouble on my account.”
“Ah, it’s no trouble. I didn’t even have to make the bed. Daisy did. Or, at least I think she did. We were kind of in a hurry to get out of the house that morning. Up you get, c’mon.” He extended his hand to her, and to his delight, she took it as she stood up. She still had the tartan blanket around her shoulders, which he found endearing. “Besides...I don’t wanna keep you awake while I’m workin’.”
He lead her to Daisy’s mostly uncluttered room. The bed was indeed made, and Rose fell onto the duvet with a huge yawn. “You’re right, this is better,” she mumbled.
“Get some sleep,” Alec said unnecessarily, as Rose’s eyes were already drooping. He gave her hand a squeeze.
“You too,” she sighed.
Alec watched her for a moment as she dozed off. He was exhausted as well, despite the time spent sleeping in hospital. But, the butterflies now setting flight in his stomach at the sight of Rose Tyler were making him feel too wired to rest. He left Daisy’s room with one more look at Rose, her mouth gaping as she slept. She was beautiful, even like that. He sighed, closing the door behind him.
Stopping at the front door, he noted the police car waiting outside. He hadn’t particularly wanted the guard, but Ellie had insisted. Satisfied that all was secure, he wandered to the sofa and sank down onto it. The case file he’d requested was set on the coffee table, so he opened it and began to read again, looking for clues as to where Mike Lawry might have gone after the fire. He pulled out his new phone to call the care home, wanting to be assured that the guards were competent. He stared at the screen for a moment, then texted Daisy.
I’m home, and everything’s okay. Had to get a new phone. You’ll have to show me how to work the features. Are you okay? Ellie said you didn’t text her back.
He waited. There was no answer, so he dialled her number. Her voicemail picked up. “Darlin’, it’s Dad. Call me back. I just wanted to hear your voice.” He disconnected the call, then rang Tess. Her voicemail picked up as well, and he was almost glad. As much as he wanted to get in touch with Daisy, he didn’t have the energy to talk to his ex-wife.
Demanding answers about the fuckwit who had attempted to immolate Rose was a completely different thing. He checked his notes and found he number to the care home. Being shuffled from extension to extension only energized him. When the head of security finally picked up after a good ten minutes of ELO covered by an elevator music band, Hardy was ready to go into battle. Without preamble, he demanded answers. “DI Hardy, Wessex Police, Broadchurch Division. We’ve reason to believe that Martha Lawry’s son is involved in an arson investigation. Has Michael Lawry been in the last few days to see his mother?”
The Head of Security, a woman with a similar no-nonsense attitude, shot back, “I’ve already answered these questions. He hasn’t, but we have Martha under guard. She’s confused, though, and refuses to answer any questions about her son. If he makes an attempt to show up here, you’ll know. He can’t get in here without passing through security.”
Hardy raised his eyebrow. Having not seen the facility himself, he decided to reserve judgement on her assertion of its safety.
“Besides, DC Jonas is gettin’ in everyone’s way and makin’ a general nuisance of himself,” she groused.
Hardy suddenly felt more confident about Jonas’ abilities. “I intend to be in touch with both of you. I want to know if Lawry makes an appearance. And just to impress upon you the importance of you staying in touch, he’s under suspicion in at least one, possibly two murders and an arson that nearly killed me and a detective also working on the case. He’s been accused of threats against his mother. His brother is scared to death of him. I expect Jonas to get in the way. And I expect that you’ll be keeping her safe.”
“Of course I will, DI Hardy. That should never be in doubt,” the Head of Security countered.
“Then we have an understanding. Be sure everyone cooperates with Jonas.”
At the station, Ellie was nursing her third cup of tea and feeling slightly jittery. She was looking into Lily’s past. Katie Harford approached, interrupting her thoughts. “I was checking into the calls that we received about the break in and the person lurking about the River Close area. I noticed that an hour or so after Hardy and Rose Tyler were taken to hospital, an ambulance company outside of Weymouth reported a break in as well. No money or vehicles were stolen. But some bandages and other first aid items were taken. What if whoever set the fire…..”
Ellie interjected, “Mike Lawy set it. Or at least we strongly suspect he did. Are you sayin’ he was possibly injured setting the fire and stole the items to treat himself?”
Harford nodded. “He’d have the knowledge. And with people looking for him, he couldn’t just show up in A&E with a burn to treat.”
“And he’d know his way around the ambulance company,” Ellie added.
Harford shrugged. “Maybe I’m trying to make a connection when there’s none to be made, but who knows?”
“It’s worth putting it out there.” She looked up to see Evans stepping off the lift. Quashing the urge to utter a very Hardy-like groan she stood up as he headed in her direction.
“The press have gotten word of Joe Miller’s involvement in the case. We need to control the narrative out there, about this and the arson case. I’m planning on holding a conference to address the case,” he announced. “Hardy is out sick until the department medics clear him.”
“His own cardiologist cleared him,” Ellie blurted.
“It needs to be official,” Evans said firmly. “Even the cardiologist wants him in for a follow up. At any rate, you can’t do the briefing because you’re too close to the subject. I’ll do it. I need a report on the case status within the hour.”
Ellie nodded, her lips pressed together.
“And….as you’ve probably already heard, we’re shifting resources from the robberies to this case, to canvass the area for the suspect. Don’t forget that report,” he reminded her. With that, he made his way across the room to brief the group of detectives that had been working on the break-ins. Katie and Ellie were left staring at each other.
“I heard a rumor that the president of the business association owns the chalet next to the one that burned,” Katie informed Ellie.
Ellie rolled her eyes. “Well, whatever it takes to get this over with. I’d best call Hardy.”
Hardy, in a darkening mood, wished he hadn’t bothered to get the new phone. Ellie’s call had done nothing to assuage any of his worries. Evans was taking over the briefing, and he knew that was bound to be a disaster. There was no way he could get an appointment with the police’s medical department to get him cleared quickly enough to take it over. Calls to his cardiologist had gone unanswered. He’d groused about that to Ellie, who had helpfully pointed out, “Well, you’re not the only person in Dorset with a malfunctioning heart.” This had only served to make him more disgruntled. If she hadn’t made plans to bring over food so that the three of them could watch Evans fumble his way through the briefing, he would have really given her a bollocking. Whether she’d deserved it or not.
In the midst of his silent grousing, he went to check on Rose, who still slept, curled up onto her side. He took a deep breath, the sight of her calming him. He wondered just when this woman, who’d been so infuriating at first, had become someone so important to him. Knowing he’d likely have to face her departure once the case had finally ended, he hoped it wouldn’t be the last he saw of her. Recalling her singing the bit of Dear Prudence, he mused on her beautiful singing voice. Well, I’ve turned into a real bloomin’ sap, haven’t I? Alec thought.
He realized he was what his grandfather would have called “a goner.”
Then he realized he was staring in her sleep, and he beat a hasty retreat out of Daisy’s room to leave her to her privacy. Trying to clear his head of things he really had no business to think about in the current circumstances, he picked up the case file to make notes so that Evans would actually sound as though he knew of what he was speaking.
The room was engulfed. The smoke choked Rose, a claustrophobic feeling that had her heart racing and her lungs feeling as though every last bit of oxygen was being squeezed from them. She felt Alec’s hand grabbing hers, and she ran with him, but the room seemed to have grown, and the window was so far away. The flames were racing them, and winning. Her hand was suddenly empty. She looked back at Alec but he had disappeared, leaving her in hell, alone. As the smoke and flames overtook her, cutting off the light and air, she screamed.
Rose jolted awake. The memory of the scene was thankfully fading, but the panic wasn’t. Her heart pounding, she felt as claustrophobic as she had been in the burning room. She grabbed the blanket, still wanting the comforting weight around her. Taking a deep breath didn’t help. Although she’d seen the soot wash down the drain during her brief shower at the hospital, she could still feel the smoke burning her nostrils whenever she closed her eyes. Her heart was racing as another wave of panic threatened to overtake her.
Bursting out of Daisy’s room, she immediately felt embarrassed. Hardy, who’d been working at his laptop, turned around to stare at her. She was shaking, breathing rapidly.
“Rose….” he began, standing up. She decided to ignore the embarrassment and bolt directly to him. He met her in the middle, opening his arms to her, his brow furrowed. As he wrapped his arms around her he asked, “Are you okay? Havin’ problems breathin’?”
She looked up at his panicked expression, musing, He’s about two seconds from returnin’ me to A&E. “ I had a nightmare.”
“Oh…” he murmured understandingly. She rested her head against his chest.
Alec was breathing slowly, and she instinctively tried to match her own breathing to his. The weight of his arms and the steady beat of his heart grounded her, and she felt the desperation melting away. When she’d calmed a bit, he spoke gently, “C’mon, want to go back to bed? You only slept a for little over an hour.”
“No,” she murmured. “I don’t think I…...erm, can we just sit on the sofa? I think I’ll panic again if I lie down on the bed. It’s happened to me before.”
“Okay. He let her go, and the loss of his arms around her made her whimper slightly. She blushed, horribly embarrassed. “Hey. M’still here,” he murmured, taking her hand. He lead her over to the sofa, putting his arm around her shoulders and she snuggled in next to him on the cushion.
“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to saddle you with takin’ care of me,” Rose spoke up after a bit of silence. “M’bein’ ridiculous.”
“Rose.” The firm, but kind way he spoke compelled her to meet his eyes. “You are not bein’ ridiculous. And I am not just sayin’ that to placate you. I’m sayin’ it because I’ve been there. I’ve had panic attacks, just like this. Or maybe not exactly like this, because it’s different for everyone...but it’s close enough.”
Rose felt a lump in her throat, and swallowed around it. She held his eye contact, even as tears threatened. “You have?”
“In Sandbrook…. I found Pippa’s body, floatin’ in the water. Went in after her to pull her out, and I nearly drowned, and then had a heart spell. When I’m stressed, or feelin’ ill, my dreams always take me back to the river. M’terrified of water. I get claustrophobic whenever I’m around it. Can’t help but feel like it’s closin’ on me. Makes it hard to breathe sometimes. Before I got the pacemaker, it was actually my arrhythmia causin’ the shortness of breath, but when it happens now, it’s just a pure panic attack.”
Rose listened to his speech, her mouth slightly agape. She’d come to realize that the case had been traumatic for him, from what Ellie had told her, and from what Jack had revealed. But hearing it in his own words impressed upon her just what a horrific situation it had been. Her own panic forgotten for a moment, she acted on instinct, cupping his cheek gently. For a second she thought she’d gone too far, but he nuzzled into her hand. “Oh, Alec. I am so sorry.”
“M’sorry you had to go through what you did. Twice, with the car accident and with the fire.”
She gave him a sad smile. “I suppose we’re a bit of a mess, aren’t we?”
He chuckled quietly, nodding. “I suppose we are.”
After a moment of silence in which the mood in the room only became more electric, he spoke. “As bad as the fire was, the river was worse,” he told her, his voice hushed. The mood seemed to call for quiet.
“I couldn’t help Pippa. But I got you out alive.”
It was almost as if he was having an out of body experience, watching himself confess his most painful, frightening moment to Rose, feeling her soft palm resting gently against his cheek, feeling her breathe with him. And although it was probably the worst timing possible, he wanted nothing more than to kiss her, to reassure her. To reassure each other that they weren’t alone. He wanted her to lean on him, and he wanted to find comfort in her.
“Alec,” she whispered.
His eyes darted to her lips and then back up to hold her gaze.
His eyes are beautiful. Just beautiful.
The tension felt as though it was at a breaking point. She caught him glancing at her lips.
Knowing what Alec undoubtedly wanted, she found herself longing for him. The timing was likely all wrong. There was a murderer to catch. They we both riding the wave of emotions from the past thirty-six hours, and her judgement was shaky. There were likely many reasons kissing Alec Hardy at this moment was not a good idea.
She disregarded all of them.
They leaned in at the same time, their lips brushing in the slightest of contact. Rose gasped at the feel of it, then slid her hand around to the back of his neck, running her fingers through his hair. He made a noise somewhat like a sigh and moan combined, and shifted closer to capture her lush bottom lip between his. They kept the contact gentle, almost chaste until he couldn’t resist darting his tongue out to taste her. She opened to him and deepened the kiss. He sighed as he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close. Her other arm reached around so that both hands were stroking through his soft hair. And for a few blissful minutes, they were lost in each other. Both were too distracted to notice the front door open, or hear the footsteps of someone crossing the threshold.
“Dad?” Daisy called out.
Rose and Alec startled at the sound of her voice.
“Who the hell is that?” she bit out. Rose jumped up off of the sofa in reaction to the shock.
“Daisy, darlin’...what….erm…” Alec stammered, standing shakily. His inability to form a coherent thought would have been amusing to Rose if she hadn’t been mortified to be caught snogging by a teenaged girl.
Daisy seemed to be as gobsmacked as the adults. She settled her glare on Rose. “That’s my blanket,” she growled, pointing at the black and yellow tartan wool wrapped around the stranger’s shoulders. Rose dropped the blanket.
Finally, Alec stumbled forward to meet Daisy in the middle of the room, leaving Rose to stand dumbly by the couch. “Darlin’, what’s goin’ on?”
“I found out Dave and Mum were fucking all the time you were sick, that she screwed up the murder case with the missing girls so bad that it cost you your reputation and kept us apart for two years. Then, you almost died in a fire, but now you’re practically shaggin’ some blonde in the lounge. That cover it?”
Alec gaped at Daisy’s speech. When he recovered his voice, he asked shakily, “They told you this?”
“Dave did. Mum didn’t want him to. Was he lyin’, Dad?”
A different kind of tension filled the room. Alec went pale, and Rose’s heart sank. She wanted to fade into the background, unseen and unnoticed. Instead, Daisy turned her sharp eyes back to her.
“So, who the hell are you?” Daisy demanded again.
As I said in a prior chapter, I am taking a brief break from this story to work on Christmas stories and Secret Santa fics. Ch. 17 has an outline, and will be written shortly after Christmas. I expect to post it sometime during the first couple of weeks of January. It won't be too long of a wait. See you soon!
Chapter 17: Chapter Seventeen
Alec and Rose deal with the fallout of the investigation and Daisy's arrival. Jack Harkness arrives in Broadchurch to assist Rose.
Thank you for your patience! My hiatus lasted a bit longer than I had planned due to Christmas and life. Having said that, I am not going to commit to updating this weekly. There's only a few more chapters left, but my work ramps up in February (if the schools don't have a lot of snow days.) I intend to try for every couple of weeks. It will be finished soon, though. I am so glad you've stuck with it for as long as you have. I appreciate every one of you. This chapter was betaed by the wonderful Rose--Nebula.
“So, who the hell are you?” Daisy demanded again. The teenager’s eyes narrowed as Alec hurried around the sofa and crossed the room to her.
Rose wanted to fade into the wall, but at the same time, backing down was not something she did easily. She decided to approach the young woman in a friendly manner, hoping that it would disarm her. “I’m Rose Tyler,” she said, trying a smile. She suspected it came off rather more like a grimace but it was the best she had at the moment. “Your dad and I….”
“Yeah, don’t need the gory details,” Daisy muttered.
“Daisy, enough,” Alec interrupted. “We were working on a case together and…”
Was that what it was? Is that what just happened? Rose thought.
“Well, not together at first,” Alec corrected himself. “But she’s been invaluable to the investigation.”
Daisy grumbled, “Is that how you’re rewardin’ good work these days?”
I have been? Rose wondered, barely registering Daisy’s snarky reply. She was jolted out of her thoughts by Alec’s voice raising in furor.
“That. Is. Enough, Daisy Jane. Rose is a guest, and I’ll not have your rudeness. Yes, you walked in at a bit of an awkward time, and I know you’re upset. But she’s my friend and you’re not takin’ your anger at you mother out on her. You need to apologize now!”
Daisy glanced at Rose and muttered, “Sorry.”
Scrubbing his hand through his hair, Alec growled, “Daisy!”
“It’s fine, it’s fine…” Rose tried to placate him, hoping the floor would open up and swallow her whole.
“Oh, by the way, Dad, I’m not just angry at Mum,” Daisy shot back. “You’ve got some responsibility in this too.”
Alec went silent, his lips pressed together.
“Alec,” Rose ventured. “I’m gonna leave. You two need your time….”
“No,” he said. “It’s not safe for you with Lawry still at large. You have to stay here.” His arms crossed, and Rose could once again see the intractable man with whom she’d sparred when they’d first crossed paths.
“You’re not orderin’ me to stay anywhere,” Rose argued back. I’ll catch a ride to the station with the police guardin’ the house. I can arrange somethin’ from Torchwood. Gonna get out of your hair now.”
Alec’s mind was whirling from the memory of the fire, of Rose’s kiss and Daisy’s revelation. Daisy was irate and inconsolable and he needed to deal with her. At the same time, he didn’t want to see Rose walk out his door, and it wasn’t solely because of the potential danger.
“Rose, can I talk to you for a mo, before you make any decision to leave? And Daisy, you have a seat. We’re gonna talk.” Daisy stared at Hardy for a long moment, and it seemed as if he was in a standoff with her. Then she averted her eyes and sighed, her shoulders slumping. “Darlin,” he murmured, unable to let her go any farther without hugging her. He stepped closer and wrapped his arms around Daisy. She stiffened, but after a few seconds she succumbed, letting him embrace her. “We’re gonna talk about this, okay?” Daisy nodded and pulled away. She sat down on the sofa, reaching for her blanket but grabbing a pillow instead.
He turned to see Rose, her shoulders similarly slumped, walking towards the door. “Rose, please wait.” He hurried over to her.
Rose gazed up at him. “There is nothing more important than your daughter right now,” she said calmly, apparently trying placate him. “I’ll be okay. I won’t leave the police station until Dad sends someone. It’ll probably be Jack.” He nodded, frowning. Rose rolled her eyes, patting him on the arm.
She leaned in to whisper, “ You have nothing to worry about with Jack.”
“I...certainly wasn’t implyin’ there was any need for concern,” he sputtered, knowing that Rose had his number. The thought terrified him and thrilled him in equal measures. “I wanted to make sure you were safe, though.”
Rose gave him a small smile. “You know I’m right. Daisy needs you. This seems pretty momentous.”
Alec sighed heavily, glancing back at Daisy, who sat on the sofa, her head bowed. “Yeah,” he murmured, hesitantly reaching for her. He felt her hands grip his, warm and soft. “Bit of an understatement, actually. Don’t wanna let you go, either, though.”
“Don’t wanna go,” Rose said with a small smile. “Take your time with your girl. Then we can figure out what’s going on with us.”
They heard the slam of a car door, and both of them looked out the window to see Ellie, laden with takeaway, heading towards his door. “Ride back with Ellie. I’d feel better.”
Rose laughed softly, “So you’re not gonna let her eat again? That’s a pattern with you.”
He grinned ruefully. “Rose?” Ellie was approaching fast, so he blurted in a rush, “Whatever this is…” He let her hand go long enough to indicate the two of them. “...it’s not just because I rescued you from that fire, or because I’m wantin’ comfort, or think that you do.”
Ellie knocked on the door.
He murmured, “Been hopin’ to do that for a while now.”
“Me too,” Rose whispered.
The knocking turned into banging with Ellie’s voice griping, “Blimey, I see the pair of you. Don’tcha wanna eat?”
Rose looked away, chuckling as Alec turned the doorknob.
“What’s goin’ on?” Ellie demanded as she hauled in the takeaway bags.
“Miller, I need you to take Rose back to the station. Just take your food with you and eat there. Got a bit of a situation…..” He nodded towards the sofa. Ellie’s eyes widened in surprise. Then he turned to Rose, leaned down and quickly pressed a kiss to her lips, causing Ellie’s mouth to drop open.
Rose barely had time to register the sensation of his lips on hers before he pulled back to give Ellie more orders. She appreciated the fact that he had kissed her in front of Ellie, which had to have been a huge admission for him. In spite of the situation, she smiled.
“Okay,” Ellie grumbled, blowing out an exasperated breath.
“I’ll explain in the car,” Rose told her. “Good luck, Alec.” She squeezed his hand reassuringly.
“Yeah, thanks, gonna need it,” Alec told her, reluctantly letting go of her hand.
Ellie soberly handed Alec his bag. “Actually eat it, okay?” she told him. Rose gave Alec a small wave and followed Ellie out. Once the door was closed behind them and they were heading towards the car, Ellie spoke. “Eventful afternoon, I take it.”
“Just a bit,” Rose allowed.
“Let’s talk on the way to the station,” Ellie recommended as they entered her car. Rose sank into the passenger seat and closed her eyes. Ellie started the car and they pulled away.
“Where to begin?” Rose asked when she opened her eyes again.
The Burtons had planned to stay at the Traders, but now that the case seemed to be taking a turn, Patsy insisted on renting a chalet. It had taken a bit of doing, since the fire on the riverfront had destroyed one rental and heavily damaged another, and the warm weather had filled what was left. “Finally. We’re in,” she announced. “There’s an available one by the cliffside, two bedrooms, so we need to get packing.”
“Remind me again why we need to leave here?” Marshall grumbled.
“Because we are,” Patsy told him, brooking no argument. “Where is Gen? Thought she’d be in here by now. Suppose she’s sleeping in late… Go ahead and pack and I’ll go get her.” She left the room before Marshall could speak again, going to the next door. She knocked. “Gen? It’s Mum, love.”
Gen didn’t answer.
“Gen, we’re getting a rental. We’re due to pick up the keys in an hour. Genevieve?” There was no response. Patsy felt uneasy. Gen had been so distraught lately. She knocked louder. Marshall poked his head out of their room.
“Why the bleedin’ hell are you pounding? Where’s Gen?”
“That’s why I’m pounding! What if something’s wrong? What if she’s...oh, God. Call the front desk now!”
Ten minutes later the front desk sent someone to open Gen’s hotel room door. Patsy was relieved that Genevieve hadn’t harmed herself, but a new worry had arisen.
Genevieve was missing, and her bed was untouched from the night before.
Alec watched Rose and Ellie leave, using the brief grace period to formulate what he was going to say to his daughter. That had been his plan, at any rate. By the time he’d walked back to the sofa and sat down next to her, his mind was utterly blank. Instead of speaking he put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her to him. She didn’t resist. Instead, he felt her shoulders shake as she sobbed in his arms.
“Oh, Daisy darlin’. I am so sorry. I hope you can forgive me,” he sighed.
Daisy looked up at him, appearing incredulous. “I’m properly furious with both of you for lyin’ to me, I really am. But Dad, you’re not the one who slept around. Mum did, and she knew you were sick. She had to.”
“I don’t know what she knew or when she knew it, Daisy. I kept the worst of my illness from her.”
Daisy rolled her eyes. “Maybe I didn’t have specifics, but I knew you were sick. If I knew somethin’ was wrong, then she did, too. She was probably hopin’ you just wouldn’t wake up one day…”
Alec stared at his daughter in horror. “Did you say that to her?”
“Yeah, and I stand by it. She smacked me for it, and I don’t care.”
He scrubbed his hand over his face. “Blimey, Daisy. Look, I did keep quite a few details from her. I got good at hiding how I felt, at least for a while.”
“Oh, yeah,” Daisy scoffed. “The gray skin was completely normal. She knew. I can’t believe you’re defendin’ her!” Daisy pulled away from him.
“I am not defendin’ what she did. At all. She was a liar, and a cheat. But she was healthy, and at the time I didn’t know how much longer I had. You needed a stable parent.”
“I would have taken care of you,” Daisy said in a small voice, the tears flowing freely again. “You didn’t give me the chance to try. If anything, that’s the thing I’m angriest with you about.”
“Oh, darlin’,” Alec sighed, his own eyes filling. “That was never your job. That’s not any kid’s job. You needed to have a normal life.” He pulled her into his arms, even as he shuddered with his own suppressed sobs. He mourned for her, and for Tom and Chloe and all the other children who’d been forced to take on adult problems.
“I would have tried,” she whispered.
Alec murmured in a voice broken with tears, “I know you would have, and it wouldn’t have been fair to you. You needed to have a carefree childhood.”
“Well, that was never gonna happen. I wasn’t carefree when I knew you were sick, or when you weren’t with me.”
He sighed. “I’m so sorry, Darlin. I tried to do what was best for you, and I failed at it. It’s been one of my biggest regrets. Among many. I wish we’d been straight with you from the start. I wish…” His voice trailed off. If wishes were horses, as Nan used to say… ”At any rate, I’m glad you’re with me.”
“I’m so glad you survived the surgery so I could be here with you. I need my dad.”
“I know, Darlin. How did you get here? Did you take the train?”
“Yeah. I took some money from Mum, and don’t gripe at me for it. Chloe picked me up and brought me here. Please don’t make me go back to Sandbrook, Dad! Please. I can’t be around her…” Alec hugged her again. The girl’s body was stiff and shaking in panic.
“Shh...love, calm down. C’mon, breathe with me.” Daisy took a deep breath, and when she’d calmed, Alec said, “You saw those police officers out there? It’s because that case of mine took a dangerous turn with that fire. I don’t feel comfortable with you bein’ here.”
“I can’t go back to Mum’s. I’m old enough now. It’s my decision,” she spoke quickly. “Beth would let me stay there with Chloe. She told me I could stay with her if I needed to. We talked about it in the car.”
Alec sighed. “It’s not out of the question. I’m just afraid it’ll be a while.”
“Beth always needs extra sitters for Lizzie when Chloe has to work. I can do that.”
He rubbed his eyes tiredly. “We’ll call Beth,” he murmured.
Daisy squeezed him again. “Are you okay, now? I know you spent the night in the hospital because of that fire. Why were you even in a burnin’ house, Dad? Was it for that woman?”
Alec sat back to look Daisy in the eyes. “That woman is Rose, and you were really rude to her. You’re gonna have to apologize again, politely.” Daisy looked away, her head bowed. She nodded. Alec tipped her chin up to look at him again. “I did go into that house after her. I would for anyone in that situation, Daisy. I couldn’t stand by and let her burn to death. The fire department wouldn’t have made it on time.”
Daisy rolled her eyes. “Dad, I don’t think you’d be snoggin’ a random person you pulled from a house fire. Is she special? Are you together?”
He stammered, “Well, I don’t know if...if you could call us a thing, or if we’re together yet…”
“But you’d like to be?” Daisy raised her eyebrow in unconscious imitation of her father.
Before he could answer, Daisy’s phone buzzed, and Alec could see Tess’s picture on the screen. He wasn’t sure if he could consider it being saved by the bell or not. “I take it your mum doesn’t know where you are?” Daisy averted her eyes. “You need to answer that.” She shook her head and shoved the phone at Alec, who groaned and answered it. “Hello, Tess. Yeah, she’s right here with me.”
“So….” Ellie began as they headed for the police station. “Eventful doesn’t quite cover your day, does it?”
Rose chuckled ruefully. “Nope. Daisy’s home.”
“I saw that. And I saw Hardy snog you goodbye. Now, just for your information, I’m not opposed to that turn of events at all. Many times I’ve wanted to lock the pair of you in a room to either fight it out or shag it out.”
Rose’s eyes widened in shock. “Ellie, he’s gotta deal with Daisy. That’s more important than anything that’s going on with us. I don’t know exactly what happened, but apparently it all has to do with her mother cheating with someone while they were married. Sound about right?”
Ellie glanced briefly at Rose, her eyes wide. “The shit’s hit the fan,” was her only comment.
“Apparently. And that’s why we can’t even think about… whatever this is.”
Ellie sighed. “I’m not tryin’ to interfere in either of your lives. Really, I’m not. Alec Hardy is a thorn in my side, a pain in the arse, and my very best friend. I love the idiot, and I want to see him happy. I like you a lot. You make him smile like no one else. And I see how you look at him. You’re both besotted.” Rose’s cheeks pinkened and she averted her eyes. Ellie went on. “ Oh, I don’t know what I’m tryin’ to tell you. I’m obviously rubbish at relationships. Just don’t count him out because he’s dealin’ with this right now. There’s gonna be a time when he’s not. And I’d love to see you both happy.”
Rose was silent, letting Ellie’s speech sink in. “Okay… I’ll take that into consideration.”
“That’s all I’m gonna say. I guess you’re not stayin’ at his now. You can’t go to the Traders or another house without a guard, you now. Not until we catch Lawry.”
Rose pulled out her phone. “I have a plan for that. I’m gonna make a call to my friend Jack.”
“Ah, Jack of All Trades? That Jack?”
Rose grinned. “Yup. I’ll stay at the station until he gets here, then we’ll find a place to stay until it all blows over.”
“Then it’s back to London for you?” Ellie asked. “It’s your choice, of course. I was just wonderin’.”
“We’ll see. I don’t know what’s going to happen, Ellie. I really like Alec. I know I’d miss him terribly if I left. It’s just all up in the air right now…”
Ellie nodded. “I understand, Rose. You better give your friend a call, so you don’t end up sleeping in a cell or something tonight.”
Rose dialed Jack as Ellie pulled into the car park. He answered on the first ring.
“I’m on the way,” he said by way of greeting. Before she could say anything, he continued. “I mean that literally. I’m about to fly into the airport in Dorset.
Rose wanted to cry from the relief. “Really?” she squeaked.
“I’m almost on the ground as we speak. In fact, I’m hidin’ my phone from the flight attendant as we speak.” Rose laughed at her friend’s rule breaking. “I was packing to go as soon as your mum told me you didn’t want me to come. She didn’t guilt me into it, by the way. There’s no way my Rosie is doin’ this alone. We already have a room at the Trader’s, I have a duffle full of your clothes, a new laptop, and I’ll be there within the hour. Where will you be? Someplace safe, I hope.”
“I’ll be at the Broadchurch police station. I don’t think Ellie will let anything happen to me.” Ellie smiled and gave her a thumbs up.
“I’m on the way, Rosie. See you soon. Ianto sends his love and says for you to stay out of burning buildings.”
Almost too emotional to speak, Rose said her goodbyes and rang off. Oh, I’ve missed him, she thought. Donna too.
“Jack of All Trades to the rescue, I take it?”
“Always,” Rose laughed.
Alec winced as Tess’ strident voice assaulted his ear. “How the hell did she get there? Did you come after her?”
“She took the train. She’ll need to pay you back for the ticket,” Alec informed his ex-wife. Upon hearing that, Daisy’s jaw dropped. Alec pointed at her and shook his head in warning. “I don’t like what I’ve been hearin’, Tess. You told her somethin’ that we were gonna tell her together.”
“It wasn’t me, it was Dave. He’s gone now. He won’t be back. We’ve broken up.”
“I don’t care if the words didn’t come out of your mouth. I assumed you had control of the situation there. It’s as much your fault as it is Dave’s. She wants to stay with me, and that’s what we’ll do. I also don’t care if Dave’s not comin’ back. You never should’ve had him around Daisy to begin with. You put him before our girl,” Alec accused.
“I’m comin’ there, Alec Hardy, and we’re all gonna talk face to face. You are not cuttin’ me out of Daisy’s life!”
“I’m not the one making that decision. Daisy is old enough to choose where she wants to live, and this is where she’ll stay. You’re free to come, after I get this case settled, and we can see what happens goin’ forward….”
Tess interrupted, “Your case is gonna keep you too busy to parent Daisy. You’re too busy doin’ the fire company’s work for them, for one thing. Saw the news about your little rescue mission. You won’t put her first. You’re far too busy with damsels in distress. I’m on the way.”
He pinched the bridge of his nose, growling lowly in anger. Tess was right, he would be too busy to be a proper parent. He glanced up at Daisy, whose features were twisted in fear and anger. He couldn’t send her back to Tess, even if he was in the middle of hell right now. “Tess, I am telling you that if you come here, you will lose her. It won’t be me making the decision, it’ll be her. She will walk away from you and she won’t look back, and you both will end up regrettin’ it. She needs time to cool off, and then we’ll all get together and discuss this. Like we should have to begin with.”
There was a long silence, and just as Alec thought the call had dropped, Tess finally spoke. “Enjoy being the parent in favor, Alec. I’ll be in touch.” With that, the call disconnected. Alec looked over at his daughter, who was crying silently. He opened his arms to her and she ran into them gladly.
His own phone began to buzz, and he furrowed his brow, once again torn between his job and his family. He squeezed her and murmured, “You call Chloe and set things up. I have to take this. Okay? We’ll get through this.” Daisy sighed, her eyes still filled with tears. Alec caught a stray drop with his thumb. “I love you, Darlin’.”
“I love you, Dad,” she whispered as she let him go to answer his own phone.
After Daisy had shuffled back to her room, Alec picked up his phone and listened to the voicemail. It was Ellie. The news conference is about to start. You’ll want to watch. Rose’s friend is coming to stay with her. He’ll be here shortly, so she’s safe.
“That’s good,” he breathed.
Evans’ news conference began on the steps of the police department shortly after Rose and Ellie arrived. Ellie was hard pressed to think of anyone who had less charisma than Evans as a public speaker. Even Hardy practically on his deathbed was more animated, and that’s sayin’ a lot, she thought as she watched him update the story. The basic information was given out: Moira was apparently the victim of a murder, Michael Warren Lawry was a person of interest. Ellie set her jaw and stared at the screen as Evans revealed that Lawry had been Joe Miller’s lodger in Liverpool but the full extent of Miller’s involvement had yet to be determined. She felt all the eyes in the room on her as Evans spoke, but she ignored it. Rose stood by her, and Ellie had the feeling she was staring all the people down for her. Just as Evans was signing off, the lift opened and a tall, dashing stranger stepped off. He wore a white shirt with the sleeves rolled to his elbows, denims, and sunglasses. He removed the sunglasses, and suddenly no eyes were on her. “Rosie,” he called out. He had an American accent. Ellie wasn’t sure what she had been expecting but that wasn’t it.
Rose hurried over to embrace him. “Thank God you’re here,” she sighed.
“I needed a beach vacation,” Jack chuckled. To Ellie, he said with a grin, “Hello, I’m Jack Harkness.”
Ellie grinned back. “Ellie Miller. So, you’re the Jack of All Trades?”
“Ooh, I like that.” Turning to Rose, he said, “Think I could talk your dad into lettin’ me have that on my business cards?”
After the pleasantries (and natural flirting from Jack, who really couldn’t help it) Rose and Jack left for the room he’d booked for them at the Traders. Ellie felt as though Rose was safe, and that she could finally begin to untangle some of the mess. She hoped Hardy could get there soon, because it was so much easier when they could bounce off each other. She decided to chance it and go back to his house, in hopes that things were calm enough to get a little work done. Then the lift doors opened again and all hopes of getting anything accomplished were dashed.
Katie escorted Marshall and Patsy Burton to Ellie’s desk. Patsy was sobbing hysterically. “Genevieve is apparently missing,” Katie informed her. With that bombshell dropped, Katie went on to tell them, “I’m informing Evans.” It went unspoken between the two detectives, In case Lawry has gotten to her. Harford hurried away. Ellie shook her head incredulously and dialed Hardy again.
Rose made a beeline for her bed as soon as she crossed the threshold of the room Jack had booked for them. She flopped on the bed by the window, knowing that Jack would want the one by the door to put himself between her and any intruders. Jack followed her in. He closed the door and engaged all the locks. Once he was satisfied with the security, he dropped her duffle on the pillow next to her. Rose sat up and unzipped it. As Jack looked out the window, she began to pull random articles of clothing out. “Never take having access to your own pants for granted, Jack,” she commented.
He snickered. “If I wore pants, I’d take that advice to heart,” he told her. He didn’t avert his eyes from the window. Rose watched him stare out, his eyes hard, even as he joked. She knew he was running through the logistics of an escape in case they needed it. “Glad I could bring you some of your things. Of course, your mum didn’t want to pack too much. She hopes you’ll come home when you run out of clothes.”
Rose rolled her eyes. “She does realize there’s shops in Broadchurch, right?”
Jack turned away from the window, apparently satisfied by what he had seen. He closed the blinds, plunging the room into semi-darkness. “Jackie’s freaking out. So’s your dad, but he’s quieter about it. So, what’s going on? Besides murder and arson, that is. Were you just planning on staying at the police department until I got here or the asshat responsible for all this was caught? Were you planning on trying to catch said asshat?” He stretched out next to Rose on her bed. She smirked at the man she considered a big brother.
“What, you think I can’t catch asshats? I like that term, by the way,” she kidded.
“Thanks. You know how I feel about your abilities. And you know how I really don’t fancy you being barbecued. Now. Answer my questions. What exactly were you planning on doing?”
Rose puffed her cheeks out, then blew out a breath. “Still workin’ that part out, I suppose. Tryin’ to work out a multitude of things, apparently.” Jack rolled over on his side, propping up his head on his hand. He waited for her to gather her thoughts. There was no mischief in his eyes now, just concern. “I did have a place to stay after the fire, but it got a bit complicated. I was at Alec Hardy’s.”
Jack’s eyes widened in surprise. “Oh, really, now? The bloke who pulled you from the fire? Was he pullin’ you in other ways, hmm? I knew you fancied him when we talked before. So, spill, Rosie. What happened? And more importantly, why the hell are you here in this bed with me and not in bed with him?”
She laughed at his audacity. “Oh, Jack. You were on your way regardless, so we’d be in this exact situation no matter what happened at Alec’s. And I don’t kiss and tell.”
“You do so kiss and tell,” Jack accused her, laughing as she threw some balled-up socks at him. “You did, you kissed him! Way to go, Rosie!”
She huffed, “Okay, yeah. But that’s not important right now. We probably shouldn’t have. It’s not the right time for either one of us. His daughter came home from a trip and caught us snoggin’. She was in a traumatic situation and he needs to take care of her. I have a case to solve. Not the right time.”
Jack patted her on the arm. “Ah. I see,” he commented, nodding his head.
Rose reckoned that she should be happy for the apparent support but she knew Jack all too well. There was more that he wanted to say. “What exactly do you see?” she asked.
“I see my friend Rosie, who’s been sad for quite a while, who might just be ready to move forward in her life, but she’s doubting herself.”
Rose sighed. Jack opened his arms for a hug, and she gratefully took him up on it. She murmured, “It’s not that I’m doubtin’ myself, exactly, it’s that I’m at loose ends. I’m not sure what I want to do. If I want to be in London, or if I even want to be a private detective after all this. Then there’s me, missin’ John, but meetin’ Alec and thinkin’ I might be ready to move on… But regardless, Alec’s not in a good place right now to start a relationship with me. His daughter has to come first.”
Jack nodded. “I’ll give you that, he does need to get all that sorted out. It’s not fair to any of of you, his daughter included. But once he does, do you think you’d be ready to pursue something with him?”
She remembered the feel of Alec’s lips on hers, feeling a bolt of warmth and arousal. “I think I might be. But first, we have to get through all this.”
“Fair enough,” he agreed.
After a stretch of companionable silence, Rose murmured, “I had a dream on the night of the fire, Jack. It was of John. We were on the beach and...he was tellin’ me that it was time to open my heart to someone else. I remember him saying somethin’ about my heart being bigger on the inside, and that he wanted me to have a fantastic life.” She took a shaky breath. Her voice wavered as she continued. “And then he started talkin’ about Alec and tellin’ me to wake up. He was tryin’ to alert me to the fire. I woke up and there was Alec, and the room was burnin’. I think John helped save my life, along with Alec.”
Jack hugged her tightly, his own voice tight with emotion. “Oh, Rosie. That sounds like our John. I think you were givin’ your heart permission to want someone new. And even if it’s not the right time for Alec Hardy, I hope you’ll let yourself open up your heart to someone.” Rose shuddered in his arms with a quiet sob. Jack grinned. “I’m gonna bet on this Hardy, though.”
Rose gave a watery chuckle. “It might be a good bet. We’ll see.”
They were interrupted by the sound of Rose’s phone buzzing. “Your mum checkin’ in,” Jack supposed.
Rose rolled away from him to grab the phone. “No… It’s Ellie, Alec’s partner at work.” She answered the call. “Hello?”
“Just thought I’d let you know before the cops descend on the Traders.... The Burtons just reported Genevieve missing. Her bed wasn’t slept in last night.”
Rose gaped at Ellie’s report. “Bloomin’ hell. What could that mean?”
“No idea. Now, don’t go lookin’ for her yourself. I just wanted you to know for when SOCO arrives to look at her room. Stick with Jack.”
“Quite right,” Rose said, eyeing Jack, who gave her a confused shrug. “Is Alec coming here?”
“He’s still at home with Daisy. But he knows about it. Don’t get into trouble,” Ellie warned.
“I’ll do my best,” Rose said, knowing that her answer likely wouldn’t do anything to reassure the detective. They said their goodbyes and Rose hung up, gazing at Jack. “Moira Burton’s sister Genevieve was staying here with her parents. She went missing.”
“What’s goin’ on with that family?” Jack asked incredulously.
“We could find out. They’re one floor below us.” Rose smirked, snatching up the key card she’d dropped onto the bed next to her.
“We probably should stick right where we are, given the situation,” Jack recommended, but Rose was already rolling away from him and hopping up from the bed. She slipped her feet into her trainers and headed for the doors, knowing that Jack would follow. Jack groaned.
“So much for stayin’ out of trouble,” she heard him say behind her.
A few years before, when the Weymouth Traveler Inn had hosted Hardy and Miller in its’ last available room, it had boasted a cleaning crew that had mostly shown up for work, and it had been in fairly good repair.
That was no longer the case, but the man was in need of a room for the night. It was apparently for just for one person, paid with cash. Since the Inn was desperate for tourists the man behind the desk didn’t question it.
He probably should have.
Mike Lawry crept to the end of the first floor hall and cracked open a side door just enough to look out. “Bleedin’ hell,” he swore as he peeked out, because the person he was expecting wasn’t there. “Gen, come fuckin’ on. I can’t let the door go, it’ll lock.” He heard a low groan.
The woman shuffled into view. She was hunched over, her arm held stiff, pressed against her body. Mike grabbed her by her good forearm, and yanked her into the building. He let go of her arm and put his hand over her mouth. “We’re up on the second floor. Can you keep your mouth shut that long?”
Genevieve nodded, tears streaming. Mike hesitantly uncovered her mouth. “It hurts, oh God, it hurts,” she breathed.
“Shut up and follow me. Or make a ruckus and get yourself caught. Whichever suits you. I don’t give a shit what you do.” Mike turned his back on her and started up the nearby flight of stairs. He heard her following obediently after him, as he had suspected she would.
Their room was four doors away from the flight of stairs, about three doors farther down than he was comfortable with, but beggars couldn’t be choosers. He unlocked the door and ushered Genevieve inside. She sank down on the bed, whimpering as it jostled her injured arm.
“Here, lemme see,” he demanded.
“I think it’s worse,” Gen muttered, her jaw clenched. “Hurts.”
She extended her bandaged arm to him. With a practiced hand, Mike removed the dressing to reveal the reason for Gen’s agony. “I’ll bet it does. If you had just broken in and grabbed the files, or even her laptop…..get in, get out, and go. But no, you wanted to make a fucking statement.”
Genevieve glared at him. “You’re repeating yourself. I got this lecture last night.”
“Well, now we’re on the run,” Mike admonished her, “and you’re…..Blimey.” He’d gotten a good look at her arm.
It was a mass of red skin and blisters from her palm past her wrist. Genevieve had burned herself badly. Mike shook his head.
“I told you it was worse. Is it infected?”
“Don’t look any worse than it did last night,” he lied, knowing she’d go into a panic. He had only recently calmed her down from the frenzy she’d been in once they’d reunited near the private detective’s chalet. He’d been shocked to see that flames were dancing behind the front window. He’d been thrown off guard even more by the sight of Genevieve in the throes of pain and panic. They’d barely escaped detection. The one good thing Genevieve’s little conflagration had done was provide a distraction.
“What are we gonna do now, Mike?” Gen groaned as he reapplied topical antibiotic cream he’d stolen from an ambulance, along with a packet of wound dressings. She hissed in pain.
“Gonna have to think,” Mike hedged, beginning to redress her wound. “Haven’t made any decisions.”
“Don’t leave me alone. We’re in this together,” Gen gasped.
Mike briefly made eye contact, then looked back down at her arm. He hadn’t made any decisions about Genevieve, either.