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.