Rose looked all around her, nothing else had changed, all the familiar buildings were there, the bank headquarters next door so whatever had happened, either Torchwood Tower had never been built wherever or whenever she was because if it had been demolished, someone had done a very good job with it. Well the weather felt about the same as where she’d just left, which was March, the reason she was wearing a long sleeved insulated jumper and the leather jacket.
Thankfully, no-one had noticed her arrival, she was debating making her way to the shopping mall, head for the underground station or just get a taxi back home, she still wasn’t thinking straight. Why was there no Torchwood? Then she had one thought – what had happened to everyone there and the man she loved? She just hoped that whatever had taken place, he wasn’t there, nor Pete or Jake, she knew Mickey had been away in Scotland, an amusing assignment she would have gladly swapped for her own.
She’d gained nothing useful to tell Yvonne when she got back, the cause of the aspiring parallel world a human woman called Donna Noble but whatever had started it, it was ending since she’d got out just in time. Her phone had come in useful, she’d connected to the internet and got what she’d needed but it was well and truly over, like the person responsible had been snapped out of it all of a sudden and it had never existed. What would have happened had her device not activated in time, she dreaded to think.
Would the air have run out, would she have been in limbo? Maybe it would have been similar to being in the void, there would have been nothing according to how the Doctor had described it to her. Fingering the credit card in her pocket, she could at least get some cash and get a taxi home, or charge it to her father’s account, since he had them with all the London cab companies in case Rose or her mother ran out of cash, Pete knowing now what women were like at going on spending sprees, something he’d not had to face with the first Jackie since she put everything on his accounts.
Making her way to the shopping mall, she located an ATM, got fifty pounds out and checked the time on her phone, which was updated by whatever network it switched to, which funnily was not one she recognised and saw the time was ten thirty. She’d left nearer twelve, having been forced from the home she and Alec shared at eight but she wasn’t too bothered, it wasn’t the first time that had happened, she would check the date later.
She hailed a cab outside and gave the driver the address.
“Are you sure about that Miss?” he quizzed her.
“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?”
“Nothing, it’s just no-one ever goes there now.”
Rose knew most people who visited always had their own cars or drivers, especially when her mother held one of her famous parties, which were even more popular than the first Jackie Tyler’s. She just hoped Alec was there, having been prised out, forcibly knowing him as he’d been anxious to say the least and would have sat on Yvonne’s sofa, glaring at her for her daring to send his girlfriend into the unknown. She was surprised he’d not demanded to go with her but he wasn’t well and he had to be careful.
She wouldn’t have let him anyway, once he’d had his surgery though, well there was no telling what difference it would make to both their lives. What Rose couldn’t understand was how could the building just disappear like that? Little did she know but when she had taken the cash out of the machine, the ball had started rolling. As the cab drove down the familiar road to what had been her home, until she’d moved in with Alec, a strange feeling came over her.
It looked different, she should be able to see the top of the mansion in the distance but couldn’t and when the driver stopped at the gates, they were hanging off their hinges with chains holding them together – this was not good. Panicking wouldn’t do her any good, she knew that.
“Hey, don’t you get out without paying first,” the driver demanded as Rose put her hand on the door handle.
“Where am I gonna go mate? If you want paying, just wait here a minute.”
“Huh, please yourself love but like I said, no-one’s been here for years, where’ve you been? Living on a remote island or something?”
Rose opened the door on the kerbside. “Or something. What happened here?”
“What do you think I am? A newspaper? If you don’t already know, believe me love, you don’t want to. The meter’s still running, in case you’ve forgotten.”
Rose went up to the gate to peer through at the ruins, if you even could call a pile of rubble that, just like Torchwood Tower but that had been neater. There was nothing she could do, where could she go? She’d never even tried the phone, it had a few numbers in the address book and of course, she knew Alec’s and her mothers off by heart, she could recite Alec’s backwards in her sleep. She reluctantly got back into the cab.
“Happy now?” the driver smugly asked her, as if to say he told her no-one wanted to go there, which he had. “Where to then? Want to see any more ruins do you?”
“Take me to the coach station then, thanks.”
“Right, coach station it is, last time I checked, that was still standing, luckily for you.” He looked in the rear-view mirror. “You ok love?”
“No, not really, I don’t want to talk about it, if it’s all the same to you.”
“Suits me love.”
Rose knew better than to tell anyone it had been her family home, that her mother, stepbrother and stepfather, possibly Alec had been there but the driver had said no-one had been there for years so how long had she been away? She got her phone out and hesitated looking at the date. It should have been the 20th of March 2014, two weeks since Alec watched Joe Miller walk free from court and the town had dispensed justice in its place and sent him away with a warning not to come back, Alec saying it was far more fitting than locking him up, since it was highly unlikely he’d even dare come back.
She didn’t know whether to breathe a sigh of relief or not, it was Friday, 24th March 2014, four days had gone by. What the hell had happened in four days? Then it hit her. No, it wasn’t possible, was she on yet another parallel world? No Torchwood Tower, no mansion and worst of all, no Alec or her family, she was all alone and by now, her device should have recharged but it had not beeped to let her know and even if it did, she couldn’t activate it sat in the back of a taxi cab.
The driver pulled up outside the city’s busy coach station and pressed the meter, just short of twenty pounds. Rose got the notes out of her pocket, gave him a twenty without looking at it and got out after saying thanks. If she’d been thinking straight, she would have examined the banknotes for the face of the president who had been ‘deleted’ by the Cybermen all those years ago. She never even realised she was hungry until she passed a fancy bakery stand, smelled the coffee and gave in, getting a latte and a sandwich, which was over-priced whatever world she found herself in.
She sat on a bench, deciding what to do. There was only one thing to do, find out the time of the next coach to Broadchurch and see if for some reason, Alec had gone back there, knowing she would follow but what if he’d been taken to hospital, when she’d not come back? How would she even find out where he’d been taken, there were half a dozen hospitals he could have gone to but Pete would have taken care of it, made sure he got the best care available or he’d have to answer to her mother, Jackie had become very fond of Alec and if she’d got a whim Alec was going to propose to her, the arrangements would have already been made.
She got up and went to the departures board. The next coach to Exeter, stopping at Broadchurch was in an hour so having spent most of her cash, she went up to the ticket office and got a return ticket to Broadchurch, wishing now the trains still stopped there, Ellie had told her the station had closed a few years ago despite attempts to keep it open.
“Hi, can I get a return to Broadchurch? Open-ended?”
Another twenty five pounds gone, this was getting expensive. She put her card into the reader and entered the number that worked anywhere she used it, on or off world, got the receipt and ticket and turned away but what she hadn’t known was, the man behind the desk closed his partition, to the annoyance of the man behind Rose and checked the details that had just come up on his screen. The woman he’d just issued the ticket to was Rose Tyler. Still, all he’d been told to do was inform anyone in the place she’d got a ticket to and leave it to them, the authorities in London would just say it wasn’t their concern after all this time, it was down to where she travelled to.
He looked up the number for Broadchurch Police Station, the desk sergeant answering.
“Hello, this is London Queen Victoria coach station, I have to inform you that Rose Tyler just bought a ticket, to your town.”
The desk sergeant dropped his pen, had he heard right? It wasn’t his job to question what he’d just been told, he had to tell the person in charge, which unfortunately today was grumpy ass – Alec Hardy, since the chief was away at a meeting over at regional headquarters in Exeter.
Alec Hardy was sitting in his office, hands behind his head and thinking about asking Becca Fisher to spend the weekend with him though how many times she’d turned him down since his arrival, he’d lost count so it was probably the same routine of getting a cold shower again. Now he wished he’d stayed in Sandbrook and tried to get his old girlfriend back from the DS who she’d run off with while he’d been taking the evidence back to the station and arresting Lee Ashworth and his accomplices. Still, that’s what you got for doing your job properly. A tap came on his door, causing him to take his feet off the edge of the desk.
It was the DS, Pete Lawson, whom to Alec wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.
Pete had been on the phone. “Right, I’ll pass that on, thanks for letting us know.” He got up and knocked on Alec’s door, who was just about to go get some lunch.
“Sir, we just got a phone call from the coach station in London.”
“Well, so what? Out with it Lawson, I’m interested because?” Alec asked, now bored out of his mind.
Why the hell had he taken this job? Then he’d got left in charge while the chief went swanning off whenever she felt like it and as if that wasn’t bad enough, the DS he’d been stuck with when he’d got here had gone off on maternity leave, leaving that idiot Lawson in her place.
“Sir, the caller said Rose Tyler had bought a ticket, to here.”
“What?” Alec growled, his feet now touching the floor as opposed to resting on the litter bin under his desk and the said litter spilling under the desk. “Is this someone’s idea of a joke? You mean to tell me she comes out of hiding, after four years and gets on a coach to Broadchurch? You lot are having me on.”
“No Sir, the caller said she used a credit card, the name on it was Rose Tyler, there was no mistake.”
By now, half of the office were looking in Alec’s direction. He brushed his hand over his scruffy beard, that way now because since Tess walked out on him, he’d had no desire to try and catch himself another girlfriend, not because she’d broken his heart but because he swore blind he’d never trust another woman but maybe he’d make an exception if Becca were to ditch the local vicar. He’d give it one more try this weekend, since he’d learned Paul Coates was attending a synod in Yeovil or was that an AA meeting? It was hard to tell but it amused him that the local clergy were just like everyone else, easy to be tempted.
“Right, find out what time that coach gets here and have two uniformed officers, one of them to be female, waiting at the bus shelter in the square. Then bring her back here to me and don’t get rough with her, it may just be someone impersonating Rose Tyler, why would she want to come to this dead-end town?”
He didn’t care that half the office actually came from there, it was the pits as far as he was concerned, he still hated the sea and the sand and as for the blue sky, well not so blue in March, well no-one had better even get him started on that.
“Sir, shall I issue a photo to the two officers?”
Alec thumped his fist on the desk, scattering folders and making poor Pete jump, not that Pete Lawson was scared of him – much. It delighted Alec every time the man quivered when he got up to even make himself a coffee.
“Well, since it’s been four years since anyone has even seen her Lawson, what do you think? That they’ll remember her like they saw her yesterday? Have you any idea how many wanted and missing persons photos the officers see every day? Well do you?”
“No Sir, I’ll get them from the file and have them copied shall I?”
Alec shook his head in despair, what had he done to deserve this? Who had he got so riled that this was the only chief that would take him after putting two killers and an accomplice behind bars, was that all the thanks he’d got?
“Get out of here Lawson and when she gets here, treat her fairly until I find out if it really is her, understood? If she’s harmed, I’ll string anyone up from the Town Hall spire. Now go.”
Pete went back to his desk, wishing he’d never even passed his sergeant’s exams and that Ellie Miller would have her baby and come back to work or she’d never got herself pregnant. Hardy was a total pain in the ass and he wished he’d get himself a girlfriend, then he might leave everyone alone and stop harassing the female detectives in the corridor, most of whom had made complaints about him but nothing had happened.
Alec heard the door closing behind Lawson and went back to his computer screen, now doing a search on Rose Tyler. He wanted to be prepared for her arrival and since he hardly knew anything about why she was on the ‘Most Wanted’ list, was surprised at the charges against her and that very little had been done to bring her in when she’d gone into hiding with her trusted friend, Jake Simmonds, who he personally thought was the one responsible or he’d got her involved.
As Alec was looking it up, picking up the phone and calling the records department and then changing his mind until it was established if it was actually her or not, Rose had boarded the coach to Broadchurch. In current traffic it was estimated she would get there around five or so and she just hoped her Alec was there but it was slowly dawning on her – this was not her adopted world, too many things were not adding up in her mind. Torchwood being gone, no missed calls from Alec or her mother on her phone, which if she had been, Alec would have been frantically calling her and sending messages and her old home was gone. How could that have possibly happened in four days?
She had chosen to sit at the back of the coach, the battery was now getting low on her phone so she couldn’t even keep connected to the internet, desperately trying to find out if indeed her device had brought her to yet another world and if this was her original one, before she’d been torn from it unceremoniously all those years ago. She’d found some information but the one thing she had not done was look up her family or Alec and most importantly, herself.
If she was indeed on the wrong world or something had gone badly wrong while she’d been away, phones and internet access could be traced and she could be in serious trouble from anyone who was monitoring for those keywords, even for Alec’s name, which had been on numerous occasions alongside her own as the society columns speculated Rose was on the verge of marrying the detective but if this wasn’t her world, maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe there was a Alec Hardy here who didn’t even know her but there was only one way to find out, when she got to Broadchurch, she would go right to the police station and hope the detective there was like her own Alec, if he was even in town.
She was soon to find out as the coach left Dorchester, the last stop before Broadchurch and she was less than eager to arrive, if her Alec wasn’t there but what of her family? First things first though, if she found Alec, he’d know where they were, if it was her Alec. What if the Alec Hardy here was nothing like the one she loved? He could be really bad, he could lock her up for goodness knew what, she didn’t want to think about it, she wanted the Alec Hardy who loved her, unconditionally, put up with her and was about to ask her to marry him.
As the coach turned left at the second roundabout, she passed the familiar town sign for ‘Broadchurch – Twinned with St Vaaste La Hougue’ wherever that was, Rose had never got around to asking any of the residents and Ellie had just said not to ask her. That was a thought, Ellie may know what happened if she couldn’t find Alec, at least Ellie would try and help her but that all depended now if she really was on the right world, which was looking more doubtful by the minute as the coach went around the mini-roundabout, along the road and pulled in front of the green where the bus shelter was.
As she looked out of the window, she saw two police officers, maybe Alec couldn’t get out and had sent them to meet her but why would she even need an escort and how would he know she was on the coach, unless the ticket office had alerted him?
The driver of the coach called out “Broadchurch” over the speaker system and Rose got up, making her way to the front, her muttering a “thanks” as he opened the door. Before she had stepped onto the short pavement, the officers approached her, the female with a photo in her hand.
As Rose had been getting up, the WPC had spoken to her colleague.
“Just you remember what Hardy said, no rough stuff, he has to be sure it’s really her.”
“Quit worrying Stevens, of course it’s her, why wouldn’t it be?”
“Really, after all this time? Hardy must have his doubts.”
“Stevens, Hardy goes after any female who doesn’t bother covering herself up properly, even more so if they’re blonde,” he nodded towards Rose as she stepped off the coach.
“Yeah, well he won’t be so keen if it really is her but she does look a bit different, though it’s been four years.”
“Miss Tyler? Will you come with us please? Don’t make a fuss, it will be better for you if you don’t resist.”
Rose looked around, there were a few people outside the amusement arcade but there was no newspaper office next to it, the local paper where she had come from had recently relocated there – this was already a bad sign.
“I’m not gonna resist but am I under arrest?”
“No Miss but we’ve been instructed to take you to the station, the officer in charge wants to speak to you.”
Rose thought at first Alec was either playing a joke on her or he’d been worried she wouldn’t get off the coach but why wouldn’t she want to see him, if it really was him?
“Yeah, well I’d like to see whoever’s in charge as well, do you meet all visitors off the coach? So go on then, who wants to see me that I need an escort? I know where the police station is.”
Stevens kept quiet, Hardy was most welcome to this one. Her colleague spoke instead.
“You’ve been here before then?” he asked, as they crossed over the river, Rose unable to see the home she and Alec shared, since the male officer was quite tall.
“You could say that. You didn’t answer my question, who wants to see me?”
Rose was now getting worried she got no answer and as they approached the entrance to the harbour caravan park, it looked different, there was a barrier across and it was just re-opening before she’d set off for London. They crossed the road, walked in front of the glass-fronted apartments and up the steps, where she and Alec had often greeted each other and kissed, much to the officers’ outside amusement. They escorted her up to the front desk, Rose didn’t recognise the sergeant behind it.
“We’ve got to escort her to Hardy’s office, his orders,” WPC Stevens stated, taking Rose’s arm and steering her towards the lift, obviously they thought she was going to get lost going to Alec’s office on her own and at least she’d said Hardy, that was something.
The desk sergeant chuckled, everyone knew Hardy went after every woman in a skirt or trousers.
“Who’s she then? Another of a long line of hopefuls, on his part?”
He also knew the DI’s record on scoring, which was virtually nil to his knowledge.
Rose had kept quiet, trying to figure out what was going on, she was getting scared, this wasn’t going to be her Alec after all.