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Alec Hardy and the vanishing money

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Alec Hardy was sitting at his desk, he had just returned from medical leave after the daunting task of finding a killer and it had taken some toll on him and he'd had to finally give in and have a life-saving operation. Now it was quiet, the seaside town was slowly getting back to some sort of normality and he had broken in a newly promoted DS, male this time, who was terrified of him. Just as it should be, he had thought.

Meanwhile in London, Rose Tyler had been summoned to the bank chairman's office and was being asked to go down to the south coast, Dorset to be precise where a large amount of fraud was being committed by a couple taking out small loans under false names and disappearing with the money. Rose thought it was rather a job for the fraud squad but the manager had been unable to enlist their help. It was costing the banks a fortune and it wasn't just their bank but the manager wanted their best person on the job and it was her.

Rose was good at judging people, she had turned down more loans than anyone just by looking at people but had also the highest rate of successful applications so she had been appointed as a risk assessor for the south of England and now any questionable loans were sent in her direction.

So Rose packed her case and was sent to the town of Broadchurch, an unusual choice since it had just been the centre of attention in a murder case but management had thought it the ideal place to set up. Any loans applied for in the Dorset area would be referred to her and the culprits had not yet hit their bank in that particular county.

She was being required to work with the local Police, a certain DI Alec Hardy to be precise and on a Tuesday afternoon in late October, not the best time to visit the seaside, Rose arrived at The Traders Hotel and was settling in. Tomorrow, she would meet with the local detective, whom she had seen on TV and was not looking forward to it. She had just sat down to dinner when the man himself walked into the dining room and Rose tried not to stare. He looked different than she remembered him on TV, he had looked tired and possibly ill but not any more. He still had one of those scruffy beards though, not her type.

She wandered into the bar after dinner and started talking to the hotel owner, she was there under the guise of new assistant manager for the bank so as not to alert any potential customers who might be pondering committing fraud. Becca Fisher was curious as to why the local bank would take someone from out of town on as an assistant manager.

Rose had a ready answer. "Well, the branch I worked at closed down, there were two and one had to go. This was the only place they had an opening," she told the other woman.

"Most people come here to see where the murder took place, there are some disturbed people out there."

Rose smiled. She was definitely not there to sightsee, it was getting cold and now was not the time to be wandering on the beach to catch a glimpse of the murder scene. Actually, it wasn't as cold as she had thought for the end of October.

"Well, that's not for me. I mean I followed the case but I never expected to actually come here. I saw that detective in the dining room earlier, he looked better than he had done on TV."

Becca smiled. Even though he had got better, she had never taken him up on his offer to spend some time with him, which wasn't like her but she did have some standards, going with a man who had been on death's doorstep was not her style and even now, if he'd asked again she would have still said no.

"Well, he's been through a lot, the case and his health but he got through it, you have to give him that. A lot of people would have given up."

Rose went to sit at a table when a few people came in and found herself being chatted up by a goofy looking man with no hair called Nigel and soon made her excuses and got up to go sit back at the bar. The next morning, she saw Hardy again in the dining room and decided it was best not to disturb him, she was going to make an appointment with him later to discuss why she was there.

Being seen into the branch manager's office, Rose sat down.

"So, I take it no-one knows why I'm here exactly and they think you suddenly need an assistant here."

"Yes," replied the manager, Mrs Freeman. "It was thought best. Any loans applied for in the area will be referred to you. I was told you will be bringing the local Police into this, in case there is any trouble. Good luck with DI Hardy, he's a bit of a hard case even since his return to work a few weeks ago. I can't see this sort of crime being his thing."

"Well, he'll have to be informed, I don't have the power to arrest anyone, just to catch them. My plan is to get them to sign for the loan and have the local Police standing by to arrest them. We'll know it's them by their descriptions and we've analysed their signatures, the writing is the same, just different names. I have all the paperwork with me, they've used four different names with us so far, all fairly small amounts, nothing over £10.000. I don't know how much they've got from other banks, it's not our concern but we want them stopped as soon as possible."

She'd had all the loan agreements scanned onto computer to easily see similarities when needed, she would just have to get them to sign, match the signatures and send an instant message to the Police, if this Hardy knew how to even use instant messaging and just keep them talking until the Police arrived. It was going to take his co-operation if she could get it but head office had already cleared it with his superior. Now she just had to go and meet him to get him to go along.

Leaving the bank, she went into a café and called the Police station and asked to speak to Hardy.

His gruff voice greeted her when she introduced herself. "Yes, I was told to expect you, I'm in my office if you want to come down although I don't know exactly how you want to do this, I don't have time to stand around waiting for people taking out fraudulent loans."

Rose wasn't expecting him to. "Thanks, I'll be there in about half an hour and I can assure you, you won't be waiting around all the time."

Rose finished her coffee and made her way to the Police station, being shown to Hardy's office having being given a visitor's pass. He never even bothered getting up when she was shown in, he just pointed to the leather sofa by the glass partition. He had thought this was not a job for local Police but his chief had told him it was only small scale so far and they didn't want it to escalate on their territory. Plus, it would be another feather in his cap if he was the one to catch whoever was behind this.

Hardy was not however going to make it easy, he would only apply the minimum effort even if they had sent a young blonde who didn't look old enough to be a trouble-shooter.

Rose outlined her plan, trying not to make it sound like she didn't expect him to be able to use modern ways of communication. She showed him how to connect to her messenger account and added him onto her list, everyone else was blocked out apart from those allowed and showed him the examples she had of the fraudulent loan applications.

"Looks to me like they have a good thing going on here, why has it taken your bank to put up more of a fight? Haven't the fraud squad been involved?"

"With other banks yes but they've just started with ours, they've had tens of thousands of pounds from other banks, we don't intend to let it go that far. I have an excellent record of turning down loans and judging people, that's why I've been sent down here. Anyone in this area who fits the description will be referred to me. Hopefully it will put a stop to them."

Hardy was thinking she had better be as good as she was made out to be. He didn't want to be wasting his time waiting for her messages. Even when he saw her in the hotel later that evening, he resisted the urge to go sit with her. Rose thought he might have at least said hello to her or ask if he could buy her a drink but perhaps it was best if they kept it professional.

Rose started work the following day, an office was found for her and she had to at least keep up the pretence of being an assistant manager, a job she had previously held so it wasn't that difficult, just overseeing staff when the manager herself wasn't around and since they had no-one specialised in loans, she got the odd one or two applications in branch and tons referred via online forms but nothing matched the criteria she was watching for.

Rose even tried once or twice to say hello to the detective in the hotel but he just grunted an hello back. She thought he must have a girlfriend already since he wasn't interested or maybe he had taken up with the hotel owner. She was called out to a branch in Poole, when a couple had made an appointment for a loan interview but it turned out to be a false alarm and she was hoping it was anyway since she didn't think Hardy would appreciate being called down there or him informing the Police there.

Why they had chosen Broadchurch, she didn't know, maybe because it was infamous or maybe someone was playing a cruel joke on Hardy himself, she was soon going to find out. After two weeks of nothing, Hardy was getting irritated, seeing this woman every morning and evening who was clearly avoiding him which was why he was doing the same. She called back into his office a few times, progress reports that nothing was happening.

"This is a complete waste of time Miss Tyler, I would have thought they would have turned up by now, even if not in Broadchurch itself. Maybe they've given up or gone onto another bank? Maybe they'll apply online for one?" Hardy asked one time.

"No, I would have heard about it if they have. We think they enjoy the challenge of passing all the tests face to face. My bank will give me another two weeks, then I'll have to return to London and see if they turn up somewhere else. They may be laying low for a while. Can I ask you a question?"

"Sure, go ahead."

"I've been in the same hotel as you for the past few weeks and we've not got past the occasional 'hello' stage. Any reason?"

"Not particularly. Is there any reason to say more?"

"Guess not." That put paid to that then, he had a girlfriend or he was not interested in her.

"Was there anything else Miss Tyler. If not, I'm rather busy."

"So am I," she thought. In other words, she was making things difficult for him. "Thanks for your time, Detective Inspector."

Hardy was not falling for that one. Becca Fisher had led him on and let him down and Rose Tyler was no different. She was only here until she caught those responsible then she would be gone.

Rose went back to work, wondering who had upset him at one point, maybe the hotel owner had turned him down. Two days later, she had a breakthrough. An appointment was made for a couple wanting a home improvement loan, one of the previous applications had been made in that guise so it was set up. Loans were never instantly approved and the culprits always insisted on having funds transferred to some building society or other, claiming the rates there were too high.

Rose alerted DI Hardy that the appointment had been set up and would contact him if she thought she had the right people. She was going to try to make it difficult for them if it was them by having them come back, alert Hardy and insist she couldn't approve it without additional checks being made, new bank rules. Rose didn't quite understand how they had got away with it so far, they had been clever and knew all the tricks.

The following day, Rose greeted a young couple and knew instantly she had the right pair. She just had to make this look good as they filled out the application and Rose entered it online. It of course came up as pending approval and the couple were told they would be contacted in a few days, giving Rose time to set the whole thing up with Hardy.

Rose called him and said once she called them back and they signed the final agreement, she would send him a message they were still there and inform the branch manager he was to be sent to her office.

Her plan was about to backfire on her though. The couple were called back and shown into Rose's office and Rose approved their loan, asking them to sign and carefully, without them realising, comparing the signatures although the names were different, she could see they were the same writing so she sent a message to Hardy, asking him to come to her office now.

"So, Mr & Mrs Jenkins," the name they had used this time. "I just have one more check to make, would you like some tea or coffee while I complete it?"

The man spoke up. "Well we were in a bit of a hurry actually, we have another appointment. Can we get this done as soon as possible. Can you just have the money transferred?"

Rose thought she had aroused their suspicions. She'd had a message back from Hardy to say for her to keep them talking, he and two uniformed officers were on their way. Then all she had to do was get up and signal Hardy from her office door – easy. So she thought.

The woman got up and Rose thought she was leaving until she heard the door lock from the inside. "You're going to approve that loan Miss Tyler, now."

Rose got up but the man brought out a small revolver from his inside jacket pocket. She had never heard of the pair being violent before but there again, they had always got what the wanted. They were the modern day Bonnie and Clyde. She knew it would be five minutes or more before Hardy got there, she couldn't get out to warn him. She had one hope, if his instant messages were forwarded to his phone. She risked it and sent a blank one, hoping he would think there was something wrong.

"I'm not going to approve your loan, the police will be here in less than five minutes, you won't get out of this office."

"Won't we? After you Miss Tyler. If we can't get the loan, the bank will pay to get you back. We have a car waiting in the rear car park, we'll use the back exit, now move."

Rose reluctantly got up and the woman unlocked the door. The gun was pressed into her back as they walked down the corridor to the back of the bank. It was isolated from the rest of the offices, a coded lock on the door.

"Open it Miss Tyler."

Rose pressed in the code and the door opened. Employees often used it to get to their cars or for smoking breaks but no-one was around. She was nudged forward to a white car and Rose tried delaying them, giving Hardy time to see her office was empty and since she wasn't in the building or she hadn't been seeing going out the front way, he would figure she was out the back.

Rose walked as slowly as she could towards the car the woman indicated.

"Listen, if you let me go now, they'll just charge you with fraud, not kidnapping."

"Quiet, just get in the car." The woman remote unlocked the car and went to open the back door. "Get in," the man said, shoving the gun deeper into her back.

Rose tried desperately to delay getting in, pretending to choose the best way of climbing in but found herself being pushed and landing face down on the back seat and the woman getting in behind her, pulling her back up. The woman was now holding the gun to her side.

The man had been handed the keys and was getting into the driver's seat.

Meanwhile, Hardy had got two uniformed officers and was on his way up into the town, pulling up in the patrol car outside the bank. He asked for Miss Tyler's office and one of the assistants showed him the way but her office was empty and the door open. The assistant went to the other side of the desk.

"Miss Tyler's laptop is still on, with a loan application open, her work phone and her purse are still here in here. There's an open blank instant message addressed to you DI Hardy."

He checked his phone, he had not heard the message tone, he wasn't used to this instant message lark. "Why would she send me a blank message?" Then it struck him. "She's in trouble. You, out back now, see if anyone is driving away in a car and you, get the patrol car in front of the car park exit, be quick."

The two officers rushed off. "Did you see Miss Tyler leaving?" he asked the assistant, who was staring blankly at him.

"No Sir, she had two people in with her, they had an appointment."

"Get me the address they gave from the loan application. It's probably false but it's all we've got."

Rose was being driven away, just as she saw the patrol car head towards the car park exit but the eagle-eyed officer had just seen a car come out so he followed it, radioing in that he was following a car and gave the registration number and that there were two women in the back.

Hardy was informed via the other officer with him. "Get another car here now, tell the officer to stay with them but don't get too close and don't make a move until I get there."

He knew Miss Tyler would not have gone with them, given a choice. They must have threatened her. Once the other car arrived, Hardy got in the front and listened to the Police radio telling them where the other patrol car was. About ten minutes later, the patrol car Hardy was in pulled up outside a farm building, the other patrol car was still there along with a white car.

Hardy got out. "Sir, two shots were fired and three people are inside that building, one was a man, who had a gun on a young woman and another woman. I drove in and he turned around and fired, shouting for me to back off."

"Right, I want a negotiator here now and inform the bank Miss Tyler has been taken hostage. Her mobile was left behind on her desk but find out if she had another one and get me the number."

Ten minutes after that, Hardy's phone rang. She had another mobile and since it wasn't in her office, they had assumed it was in her pocket and Hardy tried sending a message to see if anyone answered. He didn't want the kidnappers answering just yet.

Rose had been taken inside the farm building and told to sit on one of the wooden chairs. Her kidnappers had thought out their plan if they were challenged and she wondered if they had such a plan each place they had gone or if they thought at first she was onto them. There was only one door and she knew a Police car had followed them. The two people were near the door, not taking too much notice of her. Rose felt her own mobile vibrate in her pocket, she always kept it on silent. She risked sneaking it out and looked at it.

The message just said - 'We're working on getting you out – reply if you can then delete any messages. ' Hardy.

Rose risked a quick 'Ok' and replied.

Hardy was relieved she was able to answer. It meant they had not heard her phone, it must be on silent and he could communicate with her. The kidnappers were amateurs and hadn't tied her up. Good. The Police negotiator arrived with a loudspeaker and opened the dialogue which to Hardy's mind didn't seem to be going anywhere fast. The kidnappers demanded £10.000 ransom in return for Rose Tyler's safe return.

Hardy spoke with the negotiator. "Ask them for proof she's ok then have the chief call the bank, have them get the money together but not to deliver it yet until I say so."

The negotiator nodded. Rose was told to get up and the woman held the gun to her, opening the door.

"Here's the proof. If you want her to stay that way, get the money, you have two hours."

Hardy told the negotiator to tell them they would not get out if Miss Tyler was harmed.

"Then you'd better get that money here because we're not coming out until we have it. When it's delivered, we come out, we have a gun on her and you let us drive away or we'll shoot her. We'll drop her off somewhere, out in the countryside. You follow us and again, she'll be shot."

Hardy wondered that if they had been getting money from dozens of banks, what were they doing with it that they wanted more? Most of all, why they would resort to kidnapping when refused? Well they had picked on the wrong detective and most likely the wrong bank official. Once they were back inside, Hardy risked another message to Rose. He wanted to know if the bank would pay.

Rose replied with a yes. She just hoped that Hardy knew what he was doing and how many hostage situations he'd actually been in. She had just slipped her phone back in her pocket when the woman turned around.

"Will they pay up for you? Just how much are you worth? Maybe we should have asked for more. You should have just handed us the loan, it would have saved all this trouble."

Rose knew better than to answer them with clever remarks. She knew Hardy would do his job. She had disliked him but he was doing his best out there. Rose could have sworn she saw the top of a head outside the window near where she was sitting.

She got another message. 'Are they both still near the door?'

Rose replied yes.

Hardy got on the phone to his chief. "Get someone out here with some tear gas, I have a plan. These are amateurs, they've left Miss Tyler untied, I can communicate via text with her, I can tell her to get down and they can throw the canisters to drive the other two out."

"Clever idea Alec but it will take some time, we don't keep anything like that here, it will have to come from Dorchester or Exeter."

"Well we only have two hours or less to get them the money. You'll have to speak to the bank, Miss Tyler said they will pay. Then we'll try and delay them leaving while you get the canisters here. Have the money here ten minutes before the deadline, I want to make them wait. If they do get the money, have a tracker put on it. If they leave their victim behind somewhere, I want to know where to find her. Fortunately, they haven't found her phone yet. They won't be suspicious since she left one on her desk. Can you have an officer collect her things from the bank and take them to the station?"

"I'll get on to it, have the money brought out but hopefully, we'll have what you want before then. What if they panic seeing more Police cars come in?"

"They'll think it's the money being delivered. I'll give Miss Tyler plenty of warning."

Hardy sat in the car, hoping the gas would get there before the money. He wanted to warn Miss Tyler what he had planned but if they found her phone before she could delete the message, his plan would fail. He did not intend failing her. He had recently reprieved himself after the case before but he was freshly back from medical leave and he didn't need this. He had planned on a few quiet months before the Christmas season was upon them, then he was going to take a trip home and see if he could find his daughter.

Inside, Rose was just sitting, turning slightly to look out of the window without giving anything away, just sitting with her legs crossed and seeing the window out of the corner of her eye. Maybe she had seen Hardy out there or he could have sent someone but it seemed like he had a plan. The clock was ticking, there was under two hours and if the bank did pay up, they would force her back into the car and dump her somewhere. They didn't seem like the killer type but who did? This was the first time they had threatened anyone.

Maybe her idea hadn't been so good after all. She should have sent for Hardy before they signed and then he would have been outside waiting for them. Now she had found herself being held hostage and being threatened. She thought about trying to send another message but she may get caught and her phone would be her lifeline if they took her with them. Besides, the phone battery wasn't that brilliant, sending a text took more power and she might need it to make a call later. She just hoped Hardy wouldn't keep sending messages when he didn't need to.

Hardy was getting impatient, he hated waiting for people to catch up with him. He wanted things doing at his speed. It would take maybe half an hour from Dorchester to get the gas here with officers trained to use it. If they came from Exeter, the best part of an hour if they rushed. He didn't think Miss Tyler was in immediate danger, not until it got to the deadline, then either the money or the gas went in, maybe both if the gas came after the money but before they left.

The kidnappers would probably keep a gun on her while they sent her to pick up the money so they couldn't rush the building so maybe, the best way was to wait until she came out, have officers around the back with the gas and throw the canisters through the window while she was out, the other officers would lead her to safety. Yes, he could live with that plan. He skirted the perimeter to tell the other officers his plan. They agreed with him, if the gas arrived in time.

He called his chief for an update, there was now less than an hour. The tear gas had been released to trained officers on their way from Exeter and would arrive with him in another thirty minutes. To minimize the risk to the hostage, Hardy asked for the money to be delivered in twenty five minutes but off site and the money transferred to the officers on their way from Exeter and for them to be briefed. They would still be within the limit. Then one officer would leave the money and while the kidnappers were being distracted by the negotiator, the rest would go around the back, watch for the hostage going out and throw the canisters in – that was if they sent her out. It was all resting on his assumption they would send her out to get the money. If not, he had to warn her to get down on the ground and hope she didn't get hurt by the window being broken.

Hardy saw another Police car in the distance, followed by a Police tactical unit van – good, the money was here. He didn't plan on letting them get away with it. He went over to join them and outlined his plan to the leader of the tactical team.

"Right, if they don't send the hostage out to collect the ransom money, I'll send her a message to get down and your team goes in. There is only one hostage, her name is Rose Tyler, she's got blonde hair and is wearing a black jacket and black trousers and probably a bank name badge. There are two kidnappers, one male, one female, don't let the other female fool you into thinking she is a hostage. I can identify Miss Tyler if there is any confusion and she was sat on a chair at the side of the window so be careful you don't injure her."

The team leader nodded curtly and briefed his team. There were ten minutes left until the deadline and things were going on the kidnappers were not aware of. Rose was still sitting quietly, not wanting to aggravate her captors. She was dying for a drink. Then she heard the loudspeaker come to life.

"You in the building, we have your money."

At the same time, Hardy sent a message – When you come out, pick up the money then lie flat on the ground.

Rose could hear her captors talking in low voices. She received another message from Hardy and just hoped her low battery indicator on her phone wouldn't start making a noise. Then the woman came towards her. "You, go out there are pick up the money and bring it back. No tricks, the gun will be pointed at your back. You try to run or any sudden movements, I'll shoot. Understood?"

"Yes." Rose got up and waited until the woman unlocked the door.

"We'll be watching you." Then the woman opened the door enough for Rose to get through and shouted to the Police, "We're sending the hostage out for the money. Anyone comes near her, we start shooting, starting with her."

Hardy turned to the negotiator. "Tell them if the hostage is harmed, they will not get out of there."

The message was relayed. Hardy received word the tactical team were in place, they had circumvented the perimeter while the kidnappers were occupied, just has Hardy had planned. He was going to get the hostage away while the tactical team attacked through the window. He just had to send one word to the team leader when she picked up the package a few feet from the door. He could see a woman inside holding a gun pointing at Miss Tyler.

Rose walked out of the door, praying her phone wouldn't give her away. She could see a dozen or so Police standing around and saw Hardy with his arms folded, leaning on an open car door, probably getting ready to duck if there was any shooting and she saw armed Police officers then she reached a package on the ground. As she bend to pick it up, Hardy spoke one word into the radio tucked under his arm.

"Now!"

Rose dived to the floor and there was a loud bang at the rear of the building. The woman holding the gun turned around and Rose saw her chance. She scrambled to her feet as an officer wearing protective clothing ran towards her, helping her up and standing behind her to protect her but her captors were being kept busy inside as tear gas filled the room and Hardy saw a gun drop to the floor.

Rose was led to a waiting ambulance just out of sight and Hardy followed. "Someone pick up the money and get it back to the bank."

A WPC said "Yes Sir" and went to retrieve it.

Hardy reached the ambulance as Rose was being checked out and being given a warm drink. "Are you alright Miss Tyler?"

"Yes, I'm fine, thanks for the rescue." She finished her drink.

"I'll escort you back to the station and you can give us your statement."

Inside the building, the choking kidnappers were being handcuffed and led out into another waiting Police car and driven away.

Hardy led Rose to another car and opened the rear passenger door for her. "You were very brave back there, do you make a habit of being kidnapped?"

Rose smiled. "No, my first and hopefully my last."

"Your personal belongings are at the station, no need to go back to your office today. We'll need all the evidence from the loan applications tomorrow and we'll be adding kidnapping charges to the list. I'll just need to ask you a few questions then I'll have someone take you back to your hotel."

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