It had been a boring conference. Why she had agreed to it, she had no idea but Pete had roped her in somehow, promising her some time off afterwards. It was standard Torchwood protocol to carry no ID and just enough money for necessities, having filled the car up before she set off, she should easily make it back and everything was already paid for. She had left Exeter, taking a quicker route back than she had taken there, it had been mostly motorway and slow so she had re-programmed her satnav and it was now taking her along the A35 and she still had 150 miles to go.
She should stop at Southampton and get a hotel for the night, it was already three, having stopped to have lunch with the other delegates and Southampton was a long way off. She saw a sign for Dorchester and thought she should maybe try there. She could send the bill to Pete, it had been his idea for her to go in his place. As she was approaching a dual carriageway, she suddenly lost control of the car and it began to skid and struggling with the wheel she ended up in the ditch. She hit her head and everything went blank.
What she hadn't known was there was some oil on the road from a car just gone by and she had the misfortune to catch it. Two car drivers had stopped and saw her collapsed at the wheel, the airbag had been deployed and the car horn was sounding. Someone was on the phone for an ambulance and the police.
In Broadchurch Police Station, a call came through and since everyone else was busy, it fell on Alec Hardy, newly back at work after his pacemaker operation to get to the scene of an accident up on the main road where a car had skidded off the road and into a ditch. A car was waiting to take him and he was soon there as the ambulance crew were checking the female driver.
"Trust it to be a woman," Alec thought out loud, to no-one in particular as they carried the blonde woman into the ambulance, one of the attendants putting the woman's purse, which had been on the floor under the passenger seat, on top of her.
A tow truck had been called to remove the car to a local garage and Hardy followed the ambulance, getting another unit to take witness statements and check the back of the car and retrieve any personal effects. They found a small case in the trunk so Alec put it in with him as he set off. They took her to the hospital down in Dorchester, the one in Broadchurch had no emergency department any more, it had been closed despite protest from the locals. Hardy wondered at the state of the health service when people had a hospital on the doorstep but had to travel ten miles or so if you were taken ill in the middle of the night, which he himself had done on more than one occasion.
The emergency team treated the woman for a head injury and put her into a ward of four beds, Alec following behind with the uniformed officer, who placed her case at the side of the bed. Alec put her purse in the locker and sat down, waiting for her to wake up and tell him what had happened, her version and whether he should charge her with dangerous driving but since no-one else had been involved, decided he should let it slide.
A few months ago he would have done but since he was feeling better, he would hear her side of the story first. She was very pretty, probably in her late twenties but had a nasty gash above her left eye, which was surprising since her airbag had been opened. Hopefully she would have some answers for him and he had nothing else to do, not after the murder investigation had finished and he'd survived his operation. It was almost five, he should be finished by now, sitting on the deck outside his riverside chalet and drinking tea, going out and getting fish and chips, now he didn't have to watch what he ate, from the catering stall right next to the bridge he had to cross over the river.
The small ward was buzzing with activity, so he got up and pulled the curtain around as the other patients were getting their meals and he was hungry and he was about to leave, thinking he would come back in the morning when he heard a moan.
"Where am I? Ow, my head, what happened?"
"I was hoping you could tell me that."
He had gone through her purse with the ward sister to get some ID but there was nothing. No credit or debit card, no driving licence, which he should book her for if nothing else and a phone with no numbers in the address book, only one number recently used. Who did that? Once she was fully awake, he would open her small case, see if there was anything in there.
"Who are you then? I'm in hospital, I can gather that much. How did I get here?"
"Your car skidded and you ended up in a ditch, just outside Broadchurch. There's no emergency ward there so they brought you to Dorchester. How are you feeling?"
"Rubbish. My head hurts. You didn't answer my question. Are you the police?"
"Yes, I'm DI Hardy, Broadchurch Police. Can you tell me your name? You had no ID on you."
"You looked through my things? Yeah, I'm Rose."
"Rose, what's your surname?"
She thought about it. "I've no idea. What was I doing near Broadchurch, wherever that is?"
"It's a coastal town in Dorset. We have witness statements to say your car went off the road. The car has been taken to a local garage and being kept there until you contact them to go ahead with repairs. You didn't have much money on you and no cards. Where had you been Rose?"
He was trying to keep her calm, he had seen this kind of thing before and victims were usually much better the following morning. Temporary amnesia was quite common, she would remember soon enough.
"OK Rose, I'll leave this and come back in the morning. I'll take you back to Broadchurch Police Station and we can fill in an accident report and you can speak to the garage. Have a look in your case and see if anything jogs your memory."
"I had a case with me? I must have been on holiday or something then. Where is it?"
"It's behind the bedside table, your purse is inside. The ward sister will see you later, you should be ok to leave in the morning, they were just making sure you didn't have concussion. Your driver's airbag deployed but we have no idea how you got that gash above your eye."
"I wondered why my head hurt. Thanks detective. I guess I'll have to rely on you to pick me up in the morning then since I don't know where I belong."
"We'll get you sorted, do a DNA test and find out who you are. That's if your memory doesn't come back before then. Goodnight. I'll get the nurse to bring you something to eat."
"Thanks, I hope I get my memory back soon."
"I'm sure you will."
Alec Hardy went off, calling for a car to come down and get him, he wasn't going to pay for a taxi. Then he would borrow a car when he got back and come down and get her back to Broadchurch and find out who she was. Someone would probably miss her and report it when she didn't arrive home. He had turned the phone off when he had looked at the number so it didn't disturb her and if anyone called, she wouldn't know who it was anyway, it would save her any confusion. He didn't see any sense in calling the number.
Rose had something to eat after the sister came to see her and she was allowed out of bed. She pulled the curtain back round and opened the suitcase. Three sets of clean underwear, two pairs of black trousers, a pair of cotton pyjamas, two t-shirts, a white blouse and a black skirt. There was also a pair of low heeled shoes and two pairs of white cotton socks. She supposed she was either on her way to a meeting or had come from one where she had stayed somewhere where they had done her laundry for her. There was nothing else in the case so she was no nearer solving the mystery of who she was. She would have to leave that to the rather cute detective who had just left.
Wherever she had come from, surely someone would miss her? She supposed the detective would check the missing persons list before setting off to fetch her in the morning. He could have just left her but had offered to come down and pick her up. She walked down to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. A large plaster was over her left eye and she was thankful that was all that had happened to her.
Alec got back home and went to get something to eat after collecting a car from the police garage. Someone wouldn't be pleased in the morning but the cars were supposed to be for anyone's use. He would just borrow it for a day or two or put in to use it a bit longer. He thought back to when Miller used to drive him around all day. He hadn't seen her for a while, she had moved to Exeter with her boys and she had gone on traffic duty, she had told him she couldn't face chasing criminals any more or dealing with situations similar to the one she had found herself in recently.
It had been almost two months since the arrest in the Latimer case had been made, the culprit on remand and the town was trying to get back to normal. He had taken a chalet by the river to get out of the hotel, not the wisest of choices but it was home. He just hoped he wouldn't get washed away during the winter but it had survived for over 100 years so it must be safe enough, he just might had to grin and bear it and hope he didn't need a boat to get to his front door. If he did, he was finished which was why he was trying to get a deal with the rental company to move into a terrace house a few yards away from his current residence but they were waiting for the last of the holidaymakers to move out.
Who came on holiday to Broadchurch at the end of October? The beginning of the month it had been nice, better than it had been in August but now, there was sleet in the air and he thought it may just snow soon unless it blew over. He was on his way back to Dorchester the next morning having enquired about the mysterious Rose and being told she had been seen and was being discharged, pending her being collected. He arrived in the ward and found her sitting by the bed and now dressed.
"Morning detective, are you here to escort me back to the police station?"
The other women looked at her, then the detective. She was mischievous, he thought, making it appear he was there to arrest her or something. He decided to play along. Goodness knows what she had told them.
"Come on then, let's get you back before you cause any more trouble. Have you been discharged?"
"Yeah and I'm ready to leave, in your custody." She had a smile on her face.
He took the handle of her case and Rose picked up her purse. Then she hooked her arm into his and waved to the other women, who just looked at her. They must have all felt jealous, he thought. He didn't know she had been winding them up last night when they had asked who he was. She had pretended he was her boyfriend, a police detective and they were always playing the game of she was running away and he came after her, saying she'd got into an accident this time on her way to see him, explaining the case.
She had been lucky they had been taking no notice of what had been said last night, thinking he had been concerned for her and waiting for her to wake up. As they walked out, he had a bit of a smile on his face as he realised they thought the two of them were an item. He put her case in the back of his car and she got into the passenger seat.
"Feeling better Rose?"
"Yeah, just a bit of a headache, they gave me some painkillers. How far is Broadchurch then?"
"About ten miles. You remember where I said I was taking you?"
"Well yeah, seems only before my accident I can't remember anything but since then I can. The doctor said it was long term memory loss and I should start to remember things. Sorry about in the ward, I couldn't resist it."
"Oh, what about it, I hadn't noticed anything."
"Come on detective, how many women do you escort from hospital where they put their arm in yours as they walk out? Had a few have you?" Rose smiled.
"Ok, you got me on that and my name's Alec."
"Ok Alec and I am sorry, I got a bit carried away when they asked me who I was so I said I was Rose Hardy. Hope you didn't mind, since I don't know my own and the nurse didn't have time to put my name above the bed. Good thing no-one said anything to them, since I didn't know it earlier when you were there."
He could let her off he supposed, she was very pretty and she hadn't meant any real harm and was just having some fun.
"I'll let you off then. I know what it's like in hospital, been in a few times myself recently."
"Oh, nothing serious I hope?"
"Just a pacemaker fitting, nothing much."
"Oh, sorry. Glad you're ok. Were you really ill before you had it done?"
"You could say that. I almost didn't make it a few times until I had some sense knocked into me. I got a wakeup call."
They drove the rest of the way in silence, Alec taking the turn off for Broadchurch and driving into what Rose thought was a field that doubled as a car park at peak times and he drove the length of it and pulled up behind a blue chalet. Rose looked for the door, then at him.
"What are we doing here Alec?"
"This is my place, you can leave your case here while I take you to the station, unless you've suddenly remembered where you live and I can send you home?"
"No. Do you know where my car is?"
"Can you afford to get it fixed?"
"Good point. What am I supposed to do then?"
"We'll figure it out Rose, don't worry. Just give a DNA sample and we'll get the results tomorrow and find out who you are. Then we can contact your family but we do already know a few things about you."
"I'm a detective Rose, I work things out. You're not married, you were going to or from a holiday and the road you were on, judging by your accent, you were heading for London or somewhere around that area. What was in your case, just clothes?"
Alec had let them in and put her case by the door.
"Yeah, just for a few days and I did have a white blouse and black skirt so I may have been to a meeting."
"Good, see we're getting somewhere already. We'll walk across to the station, if I take the car back, someone else will take it. Then we'll go see about your car."
"Don't you have anything more important to do than find out who I am?"
"Not really. I'm only supposed to be on light duties, meaning I've been sat behind a desk since I went back to work. It's driving me crazy so when I got the call to go out to your accident, it was a relief to have something to do."
They walked over the footbridge and set off for the station. "Must be nice to live here and be able to walk to work. How long have you been here?"
"Since July. I'd only been here a week when a murder was dropped on my lap, took me six weeks to solve it because I was ill. When we get inside, don't keep calling me Alec, ok?"
"Ok. Gotcha detective."
He took Rose into an interview room after informing the desk sergeant she was the victim of the car accident yesterday and asked him to find out where her car had been taken. He was just asking Rose if anything had come back to her when his chief walked in. Alec stopped.
"Ah, the young lady from the accident up on the A35 yesterday afternoon. Has your memory come back yet?"
Alec looked at her. "Can I have a word with you Ma'am?"
They went outside. "I've just done a DNA test, we should find out who she is by tomorrow. She had no ID on her, which is strange and she said she may have been at a conference, she had some business clothes with her. Can we put her up somewhere tonight? She didn't have much money with her."
"I'm sorry Alec, you know our budget had been cut again after the Latimer case went over what it should have done."
"I did the best I could, under the circumstances."
"Yes and you should have declared you were unfit for the job, I'm really annoyed about that Alec. You could have died."
"Yes, yes but I'm fine now. Let me find out who she is, I've done nothing since I came back and you know it. I'll find somewhere for her to stay, no charge."
"Alec, don't get involved with her. She'll get her memory back and she'll be on her way. Have you looked through the missing persons reports?"
"First thing I did but no-one fitting her description has been missed yet."
"You mean young, single and blonde? Come on Alec, you're a man."
"I don't know what you mean," Alec grinned.
"You know full well what I mean. Fine, you look after her, don't come crying to me when she breaks your recently mended heart. Just don't charge the department for any accommodation."
The chief went back to her office knowing full well he wouldn't heed her words. Alec went back in to rejoin Rose.
"So am I to be thrown to the wolves then?"
"No, not exactly. I'm afraid you're at my mercy, the department won't pay to put you up, budget cuts. All I can do is offer you my spare room. You can repay me by looking after the place while I'm out and cook for me, save me getting takeaways. We can go shopping when I've finished work. Let's go see about your car then."
They waited in reception for a car to take them up into the town to the repair garage. Once there, Rose was shown the damage. Alec should really have charged her with having no car insurance and no driving licence but that was yet to be proved. As soon as he got her name, it would all be sorted.
He spoke to the manager and explained she had lost her memory and the police would be in touch the next day. They drove back to the station and since no new missing person reports had been filed, he decided to walk her back to his chalet. He handed her the key and showed her the spare bedroom.
"I'll be back just after five, we'll go shopping. How much money do you have?"
"About £50. I suppose it was enough for fuel if I needed it on the way to or from my destination and maybe a coffee and a sandwich. Why had I nothing else with me Alec? Did I work for a secret government agency or something?" she mused.