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Alec Hardy and the shop girl

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Ellie Miller was finally free of the investigation and the aftermath and was considering divorcing herself from her murderous husband but first she needed to get her life back together.

She had wanted Tom to go back home with her but he still insisted on living with his Aunt Lucy and she had been offered a job in Exeter but it meant an hour or so's journey each way and now there was no-one to look after Fred, she didn't trust her sister so she was going to have to find a sitter near her new station and hope for the best. At least she could claim child-care and travelling expenses while she looked for a one bedroomed flat near her new job.

Alec Hardy had been invalided out pending getting himself a pacemaker. The game was up but at least he had put Danny's killer behind bars and had lived to tell the tale. The CMO had referred him to the hospital in Exeter and since there was nowhere left for him to go, he had to reluctantly agree on the condition his room was kept at the Trader's and when he came back, he could go back to work part time but was told it may not be in Broadchurch until he was completely fit so he took the time to look up accommodation outside Broadchurch and nearer to Exeter as he was told he would probably be tutoring new recruits because it wasn't too strenuous and before he knew it, Miller had driven him to the hospital and to everyone's surprise, he had come through it.

Ellie had visited him before he was released and had come to pick him up to help him move out of the hotel and into a two bedroomed flat near the coast in Charmouth, a few miles up the coast from Broadchurch. Ellie had said though that since he didn't like water, he was punishing himself still by choosing to live near it again to which he had just huffed and told her to mind her own business. After his release from hospital, staying at the Traders for a week until his new flat was ready, Ellie considered they had become better friends than when they worked together and had nicknamed themselves 'The former detectives club', them being the only two members and weren't letting anyone else in so the day he was supposed to move in, Ellie was fussing over him having trusted her youngest son to her sister for the day and Alec had collected all his belongings.

"So is someone meeting you there?" Ellie asked as they loaded everything into her car. She had taken the day off to move him.

"Yes, it's all arranged so stop nagging so much, let's just get it over with. I'll have to call at the local store to get essentials though I expect it will be expensive."

"That's why they're called convenience stores Hardy."

They drove the few miles up the coast and turned down the coastal road until they reached a few houses and apartment blocks and turned into the driveway of the one Alec was moving into. It was a large place with two balconies on each of the four storeys, Alec's was on the first floor. So was Rose Tyler's. He had been lucky to get the place, it hadn't been advertised but the agency had let him know and he'd grabbed it while he could and since he was still on medical leave, he was getting it paid for. He had a month to recover before he started his teaching job for three months before he could go back to work properly and hopefully, Joe Miller's hearing would be over, he'd confess and there would be no trial, well not unless the idiot thought he was going to get away with it.

Alec decided to leave his unpacking and walk back up to the mini market on the main road and get what he needed. Once they arrived, Ellie went off to get a few things and met him back at the counter. Rose Tyler was sat in her office getting her head around the new ordering system that head office had come up with but decided at that moment since she was going to have to learn it, so was the assistant manager Adam so he in turn to could teach the night manager.

She spied a couple at the counter, a tall man with a scruffy beard and a woman with a bright orange anorak and curly hair who looked like they were together and thought nothing of it until a few days later when the couple came in again with a small boy around two years old. It was Friday, Ellie had just called in to see if Alec had settled down and she had found a place in Exeter and was preparing to move in over the weekend which would save her commuting and had secured a new child minder for young Fred.

Going back to his flat before she headed back to Broadchurch for the last time, Fred had fallen asleep on Alec's sofa and she was drinking coffee, something Alec had to buy especially for her since he had no taste for it now.

"I'm going to go through the case again Miller, make sure nothing is left to chance, we don't want him getting off on a technicality do we now?"

Ellie nodded her agreement and was contemplating telling Hardy what else was on her mind. She had toyed with the idea of suggesting she moved in with him since they now spent a lot of time together and it was heading for the winter months, well it was six weeks since Joe's arrest and if they had been keeping each other company since her husband was locked up, they were close enough to being friends. She was never one for being subtle but neither was Alec Hardy.

"So, you're in a new place, I'm moving in a new place, shame we're so far away now."

"It's not that far Miller, we both need some space after all that happened. Let's just get the hearing out of the way. I'll see you when they call us for it."

"Oh I thought I'd keep popping in on my way back from seeing Tom. I wish I could afford a place like this, what's so special about you? You could have offered to share."

Alec raised his eyebrows. "Seriously Miller? That's not a good idea and you know it, what would people think?"

"That we're two friends sharing a flat and why did you get a two bedroom one anyway?"

"Because that's all they had and I hoped my daughter would come for a visit, now she's answering my phone calls. Why else do you think I got it? Really Miller, you're making something out of nothing, what were you thinking I'd got it for?"

She didn't want to tell him after that but she decided if he did want to make something of it, she wasn't going to complain, she could do worse than Alec Hardy, SOCO Brian for starters and her husband. If Hardy wasn't taking her seriously, she would have to pay more attention to him and make a fuss of him and drop in on a regular basis. Ellie left after Fred woke up and Alec went about organising his new flat how he wanted it. Then he was going to take a walk down the road to see just how far he was from the actual coast.

Rose was just leaving work, thinking about the man she had seen earlier but he was with that woman and that boy so she didn't know why. Still, it was her weekend off so she was going to go do her main grocery shop and maybe go take a walk on the beach and for October, it wasn't really bad weather. Somehow or another, neither Rose or Alec realised they lived on the other side of the landing from each other.

Ellie was kept busy over the weekend and had to go back to work on Monday, her, Ellie Miller busted back to traffic cop but she had chosen it, not ready to be dealing with domestic fights and the local hooligans or other incidents and she got to drive most of the time. It was a shame Hardy couldn't drive yet, she would be waiting on the county border for him to cross over and issue him a ticket, then he would have to try and get out of it and she would actually enjoy that.

Rose Tyler was going to be the least of Alec's problems as was Ellie Miller as he received a text on Monday morning from Claire Ripley, the witness he had been protecting from her estranged husband and main suspect in his previous failed case.

The text told him she believed her husband had got hold of her new number and had left her missed calls. Alec phoned her back.

"What do you want Claire? If Lee had come back, I would have been informed. It can't be him."

"Can't you come down Alec?"

He didn't want to tell her where he had moved to or that he'd just recovered from major surgery.

"I can't Claire. Just carry on and keep working, stay with people and you'll be fine."

"I miss you Alec, why don't you come down any more?"

"You don't need me Claire, I'll check on you in a couple of days."

"I do need you, what if he's back? I'm scared Alec."

"Everything will be ok, don't worry. As soon as Lee sets foot in the country, I told you, I'll know."

Claire rang off but wasn't happy. Why was he so reluctant to travel a few miles to see her, unless he'd moved? She had her ways of finding that out. She would use the same charm she had used on him to get what she wanted, that was what she did and she was good at it.

Alec decided he would take a walk up to the shops and maybe get himself something for his lunch and he was going to have to find which was the nearest supermarket, probably the one back in Broadchurch knowing his luck. He decided to walk, it wasn't far and he knew he really should see about hiring a car but maybe they would ask some medical questions but he was going to go crazy if he didn't start getting out and it hadn't been that long since he came out of hospital.

As he walked into the store, he noticed a blonde woman wearing a manager's badge who smiled at him as she passed on her way back to her office and he smiled back. Maybe she had seen him in with Miller and her young boy and he hoped the woman hadn't thought they were together, something that could have been easily assumed. He wondered if she lived locally, he wouldn't mind asking her out for a drink, if she didn't think he was married. He was about to leave when she came out again so he nodded and grunted a quick 'Morning' to her.

"Hi, I saw you a few days ago, are you on holiday at one of the camp sites?"

"No, I just moved here."

"Right, are you and your wife finding your way around ok?"

She did think he was married so he was quick to correct her.

"No, that wasn't my wife, just a friend, she was helping me move."

Rose smiled. "Sorry, my mistake. Well maybe I'll see you around then?"

"Maybe, I hope so. Can I buy you lunch?"

"Wow," Rose thought, "He's not wasting any time."

"I don't get off until one but I can meet you in the café though I normally don't go out."

"Well maybe you can make an exception then, just this once?"

"Ok then, I'll meet you at the old bank café, just down the road."

Alec could hardly believe he had asked a woman out after all this time, even though it was only lunch but Miller might be a bit annoyed since she had practically asked him if she and her young son, what was his name again, if she could move in with him. Since there was over half an hour to wait, he decided it was too far to walk back home and go back so he decided to look around some of the shops and maybe come back later to pick up a few things for his new kitchen and maybe some pictures for the bare walls Miller had said were in need of decoration. He found the café and ordered a pot of tea and waited for his guest. When she arrived, the staff at the counter seemed to know her and they ordered lunch, Alec offering to pay since he had invited her when the waitress came with the bill.

"So, how long have you been the manager at the store then?" Alec asked, he wasn't one for small talk.

"Four years, worked my way up. I came down from London on holiday with my mum and I liked the place so I took a caravan for a few months until I could afford my own place and got made night assistant manager then I got promoted. People don't tend to stay too long."

"So you left the big city behind, don't you find it boring?"

Rose smiled. "No, I keep busy, got my own place now, go out a couple of nights to the pub but I like to stay in and watch TV so it suits me just fine. You, you're a long way from home. What's your name then?"

"Sorry, it's Alec, Alec Hardy, did you not recognise me?"

"Should I? Are you famous or something?"

"Or something. I was given the title of the worse cop in Britain a while back."

"Really? I'll get you a t-shirt with it printed on."

"That was what my colleague said, the one that was in your store with me the other day, we worked together on the Danny Latimer case."

"Oh, you're that Alec Hardy," she smiled.

"How many are there?"

Rose was about to call him a smartass but he had offered to pay for lunch. "So it's all over now? You caught the killer?"

"Yes, just waiting for it to go to court then who knows where I'll end up. I'm on medical leave so after the customary probationary period of me teaching recruits, I'll be back on the transfer list, maybe to go back to Broadchurch until someone else is prepared to take me on. I just moved down to a flat near the coast, down Sea Lane."

"Oh. I live down there, don't say you're my new neighbour, I know someone just moved in opposite me."

"Well I may just have to organise a flat-warming party then."

"I may have to complain if it gets too rowdy," Rose mused, finishing her latte. "I have to get back to work, maybe I'll call in on you on my way back one evening?"

"Fine. May I cook something for you then, what time do you get home?"

"Just after six though I'm a grump when I get home, I might not be very good company."

"Well I've been told I'm a grump all the time so you'd be excellent company. Why don't you bring a bottle of wine with you?"

"Ok, I'll do that that, Alec Hardy. I'm Rose Tyler by the way."

"So your name badge said and sorry for making you think I was with Miller."

"Would that be Mrs?"

Alec smiled. "You really don't know much about that case in Broadchurch, do you?"

"You can tell me over dinner. I guess you'll be coming back into the store then?"

"Yes, how embarrassing is that? I'll have to get a taxi back down to the large supermarket down in Broadchurch, that's the nearest one isn't it?"

"Yeah, I go down on Saturdays or sometimes I go to Exeter for a change, we could share a taxi?"

"I was thinking of renting a car, I could take you, if you wanted?"

"Ok, I'll think about it, neighbour."

Alec followed Rose back to the shop, Rose went back in her office, hoping he hadn't been just trying to dodge the woman he had been in the store with and Alec putting various ingredients into a basket and hoping he didn't get asked why he already had a shopping bag with the name of the store on it but Rose would vouch for him. He set off back home after calling at the florist to get a bunch of assorted flowers to give her, forgoing the chocolates as he had gone overboard on his last dinner invitation to the Miller house and went to start tidying up and preparing for his dinner guest.

Rose was smiling all afternoon, Adam, Julie and Becky all trying to guess what had brought it on and were having bets that their manager had a hot date with the mysterious tall man with the scruffy beard who she had talked to earlier and who had followed her back in after she actually went out for lunch, something she rarely did unless her mother was staying.

All Rose had to do now was hope either her mother wouldn't want another late holiday or her loser of an ex didn't pick this time to travel all the way from London to try to get her to make up with him again and never took no for an answer and Alec was just praying that Miller wouldn't stop in on some pretence or Claire wouldn't call him or find out where he was now living because tonight, he had a hot date with a blonde.