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Strange lights in the night

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Rose knew it was a big mistake, setting off home from Torquay when the forecast had predicted fog but if she stuck to the main road, she should maybe get halfway and maybe stop off in Southampton, just off the motorway for the night, anywhere away from 'Fawlty Towers' - the nightmare of a hotel her secretary had booked her into and everywhere near where the conference was had been booked up in advance.

She thought no wonder that one had reasonably priced rooms and she'd been surprised not to hear Basil shouting for Sybil every morning and she was meant to book out the next day but she'd had more than enough of only getting half power in the shower, the hairdryer had shorted out on her that morning and the wardrobe door didn't close properly. She was going to give them a review alright – to warn people to stay away.

She passed the sign for Exeter, the visibility wasn't too bad and it wasn't quite dark, the nights were staying lighter now it was into April and according to her satnav there was a hotel on the outskirts of Dorchester. She thought she would try her luck and stop there instead of risking going any further but while she was thinking about it, the fog came rolling in now she was nearer to the coast again, crossing the counties from Devon into Dorset.

She was cursing Mickey, who had meant to go in her place but he had wangled Brighton, fifty odd miles from London and she'd got Torquay, lucky her, that hotel would be right up Mickey's street, he'd have felt at home there. Part of Torchwood's new strategy was to get coastal towns' police forces interested enough that if anything was spotted out at sea that the coastguard wasn't too bothered about, they would call them in and a team would investigate, that being herself, Jake, Mickey and a few others including Chrissie, Mike and Alan, who were almost identical twins.

There was no way now she was even going to make it to Dorchester, the fog was getting thicker, her fog lights were on and she could make out the car in front so she kept a reasonably safe distance, not seeing any headlights in her rear-view mirror that were noticeable and hoped it would stay that way.

As she could see on the screen of the in-built system, there were two roundabouts coming up, one went to Lyme Regis and one a few miles further down led to a place called Broadchurch, Rose recalling it from the recent news a killer had gone free after the defence walked all over the two detectives. She'd been surprised she'd been able to stop herself from going to see the detective who bore a strange resemblance to the Doctor but she was well over thinking anyone who was remotely the same build and height was actually him.

Doubting she'd find anything in the town, she decided to risk going a few more miles to Dorchester but as she approached the next roundabout, she misjudged the turnings and realised she had gone the wrong way, passing some houses, then a large building and saw some lights in the distance. It was getting on for nine and she'd had nothing to eat, packing as soon as she got back to that dreadful place and almost throwing her key onto the desk when there was no-one around and she'd expected Basil himself to come out of the back. She had only stopped for a quick coffee and to use the rest room at a small diner she'd seen a sign for at the other side of Exeter.

It had taken her longer with having to reduce her speed as the car in front had gone down to forty in a fifty zone though she supposed it was only sensible but she saw a light up ahead that could be a hotel so she slowed down and pulled into the side of the road which turned out to be a lay-by outside a brightly lit empty shop with the windows blanked over.

She could just make out a lit sign opposite that said 'The Traders Hotel' so grabbing her overnight bag she'd kept separate below the passenger seat, she turned off the engine and got her purse and the bag and checked nothing was passing. The place seemed eerie to her, there was no-one around and only one car had passed in the opposite direction since she'd pulled over.

She carefully crossed the road and went through the open doorway, finding herself in the reception area and hearing laughter coming from a room to the left. Becca Fisher had been serving one of the locals and suddenly noticed a blonde woman standing at the desk, looking around.

"Hello there, looking for someone?" Becca asked her, then noticing the holdall on the floor.

"Hi, I was hoping I could maybe get a room for the night? I took a wrong turn at the roundabout and found myself on the street out there, this fog is getting thicker."

Becca thought she recognised the young blonde but what would Rose Tyler be doing in Broadchurch of all places, well except getting lost in the fog.

"Oh, I'm really sorry, we're fully booked, someone arrived about an hour ago and got the last room."

"Was it a woman?" Rose asked, hoping if it was, she might be persuaded to share a twin room.

"No sorry, someone who used to stay here came back while he gets something sorted out. Is it really bad out there? There are a few hotels down by the harbour but I expect the fog's even thicker down there."

Rose crossed to the chair opposite and sat down wearily.

"Can I at least get something to eat and some coffee?"

"Yeah, I can rustle up a toasted sandwich or something, cheese and ham ok?"

"Mmm, that would be really great. Maybe by the time I've eaten I might be able to make it down to the harbour, do I carry straight on?"

"Yeah, until you reach the mini roundabout then you can follow it around and there are two or three pubs down there. Why don't you go into the lounge and I'll see what I can do? I was out earlier, maybe someone cancelled, there are a few keys hung up."

Becca went off and Rose went into the lounge, the plush red sofa looking very inviting if there were no rooms available but maybe it was against hotel regulations. Becca went to check the reservations, just as two people came in, one being Alec Hardy himself, who had been to locate a cash machine and to get some bottled water from the convenience store.

"Oh, I hadn't realised you'd gone out again Alec?"

He hated anyone calling him by his first name, especially Ellie Miller.

"Just getting a few things," he indicated towards the white carrier bag they had made him pay extra for, him thinking it was only supermarkets that were allowed to charge you 5p for, which in his opinion was a rip-off and a stealth tax by the government.

He noticed a woman sitting in the lounge, staring into space and slouched in a chair.

"Another guest?" he asked, nodding to Rose as Becca checked that every key was accounted for and handing him his.

"Not exactly, she just turned up ten minutes ago, got lost from the main road in the fog."

"Aye, it's nasty out there, I only went down the road and that was bad enough, I would not like to have to drive in it."

"Yeah, I think it's Rose Tyler but I could be wrong."

"You don't say? Are all the rooms booked?"

"Yeah, you got the last one and as much as I feel sorry for her, I'll have to turn her away. Oh, Sally, here a minute," she called to the maid. "Can you organise some coffee and a cheese and ham toasted sandwich for the woman in the lounge? Have you eaten Alec?"

"Yes, I ate earlier, before I came here."

He had called at Ellie's house to see how she was getting on and she'd insisted on feeding him, which had delayed his arrival and him almost missing the last vacant room, since someone was now sat looking at him in envy.

"Have you asked who she is?"

"No, since I can't offer her a room and I can't let her sleep in the lounge, can I? I'd get into trouble."

"Who is going to tell?" Alec asked her. "I'm not officially on duty until next Monday, I came back early to try to get my chalet back, though it's probably already booked. Can't you offer at least? She may turn it down anyway."

Rose was guessing what the topic of conversation was out in the reception area. She had instantly recognised the detective inspector and seen him look and nod in her direction twice already and she hoped some food was on the way.

After some debate, Becca gave in, against her better judgement.

"Oh, ok, as long as you don't tell on me, I'll see what she says. You could offer her your room," Becca joked.

"Just because I am well again does not mean I care to sleep on a sofa."

"Just joking, relax. Why don't you come with me, if she sees the police are willing to overlook hotel regulations, she may be more likely to accept the offer."

"Why not?"

He followed her as she went to the doorway, the maid just turning up with Rose's food and coffee.

"Mmm, thanks, I'm starving," Rose told the maid as she put the tray on the small table.

"Hi again. You're Rose Tyler, aren't you?" Becca asked her as Sally was out of earshot, just in case she was wrong.

"Yeah, I guess the game's up? Have you found me a room?"

"No, I'm really sorry but this is DI Hardy and he suggested I offer to let you sleep on the sofa, though I wouldn't normally. It's the best I can do besides send you back out in the fog, which he says is getting worse."

"Thanks and I'd be really grateful for you letting me, I'll pay the single room rate."

"No need, what would I put it down as? I'll throw breakfast in, you can pay for that. When you've eaten come out and see me."

"Yeah, I will. Hello, so you're Alec Hardy then?"

Becca went off, leaving Alec standing in the doorway.

"How did you manage to get here?"

"I got lost in the fog, what da ya think? I was trying to make it to Dorchester but I took a wrong turn and my satnav was telling to turn around. There was no way I was going back and doing it again."

"Where were going at this time of night?" he asked, the detective in him taking over as he sat in the chair opposite.

"Trying to get home. I was stupid to disregard the weather warning. I'd just left Torquay and it wasn't that bad but by the time I got to Exeter, it was getting worse."

"Been on holiday?" he asked, indicating her holdall.

"No, a conference for my stepfather."

Alec somehow didn't believe that but let it slide for now.

"You look tired Miss Tyler."

"Call me Rose. Yeah, not had much sleep the last two nights, I got booked in Bates Motel or Fawlty Towers, take your pick. I'd kill right now for a decent bath or even a shower."

"Then allow me to let you use my room, it's the very least I can do for you. I would not like you complaining to your stepfather that you received no hospitality from the town and I am the police, you can trust me."

"Yeah, I know who you are and I'm sorry that man got away, he should have been punished."

"He was, the locals took care of him and I turned a blind eye."

Ellie had told him what had happened and why she'd gone off that evening almost two weeks ago, just as he was preparing to leave to visit Daisy. That hadn't worked out as he'd planned though, well at the beginning it had but staying in the boarding house had not been for him after having his own place and Tess wouldn't give way and help him get his old job back.

Instead, he had phoned his old boss in Broadchurch and asked if anyone had replaced him. Ellie hadn't been lucky enough to get the promotion she'd lost when he'd taken her job, given that her husband had just walked free on a technicality, that of the defence knocking them off balance with false accusations and the fact she had beaten her husband whilst he was in custody, on his watch.

"When you've finished, bring your holdall and I'll take you upstairs, you can have a shower at least and I'll talk to Becca, maybe I can give you my room and I'll sleep down here."

"I can't let you do that, you just got over heart surgery, I read about you."

"How could you have? I never revealed it, where did you get that information from?"

Rose realised she'd slipped up.

"Sorry, I haven't been honest with you. I was at a conference for Torchwood, I'm an agent."

"Oh, well that explains it then, so what were you doing in Torquay, besides staying in the hotel from hell?"

"Can I tell you later, after my shower?"

"Sure, are you ready?"

Rose nodded and being so comfortable in the chair, couldn't get up so Alec held his hand out to help her.

"Allow me?"

Rose grinned at him and accepted. "Thanks Alec, for being so kind to me."

"Think nothing of it, I would be neglecting my duty if I didn't help a woman in distress. Just wait here while I tell Becca."

Becca was busy behind the bar and turned when Alec called her.

"You're doing what?" she asked as he pulled her into the corridor and Rose had stepped out of the lounge, smiling.

"Come on Becca, I am just going to let her use my shower, she had a hell of a time where she was just staying, which is probably why she set off in the fog."

He didn't realise Rose was standing behind him, listening to him defending her.

"Yeah, I couldn't get out of there fast enough, trust me. Is there a problem Alec?" Rose asked.

"I don't know, is there a problem Becca? Come on, you know who she is."

"Well ok then but you'll have to come down after the bar closes and everyone's gone to their rooms and be out of the lounge by seven, ok?"

"Fine, I will be sure to set my alarm then. Come on Miss Tyler, let's get you sorted eh?"

"I told ya, just call me Rose. Lead the way, I can't wait to get a proper shower."

"Your last hotel didn't have one?" Becca asked her as they began to climb the stairs.

"It only gave a trickle of water and the hairdryer was bust, some hotel that was. What floor are you on Alec?"

"The first," he replied, wishing he'd been on that floor when he'd been ill but there again, no-one would have heard him falling on his bathroom floor that time and he may not be here now, leading Rose Tyler to his room so she could take a shower.

Arriving at his door, he let them in and Rose put her holdall on the chair.

"The bathroom is there, take your time, I will have to wait here before I go back down or face the rowdies in the bar."

"Fine, it's your room, I'll be a while. You don't mind if I get into my pyjamas?"

Why did she think he would object, a man would need his head examining otherwise.

Once under the steady stream of water, for the first time in the last few days, she felt her normal self again, despite being tired from the intense driving through the fog. At least she wouldn't be sleeping in the car or getting lost again and as far as anyone knew, she was still in Torquay and she intended to keep it that way, there was no sense in worrying her mother, she would have Jake set off to find her, though it may not even be foggy in London.

She was going to thank Mickey for taking the easiest location when she got back though, the weasel. He'd had all the best places, getting Blackpool and Cumbria for almost a week while she had got East Anglia and Suffolk and Jake had got the Yorkshire coast and Lincolnshire, there was only Scotland and Wales left and local branches were taking care of them, it had all kicked off up in Scotland anyway, the mysterious lights seen for several nights off the coast of Aberdeen.

It had got Torchwood interested enough to gather the police chiefs from all coastal areas to agree to alert them if anything else was spotted though she had been the last one to complete the network and amongst the delegates, there would have been a chief from this area she was in now. She wondered why Alec hadn't asked her what she had been doing, since he hadn't seemed to believe she was representing her stepfather and he'd not questioned her further.

While Alec was waiting, dreading now he was going to have to sleep in his suit – again, he sat on the bed thinking this would be the second time his hotel arrangements had gone sour on him and he wouldn't mind sharing with Rose Tyler rather than Miller any day but she wouldn't be the type of woman who would tell him to shut up and just make the most of it, nor warn him he'd better not snore.

It had been embarrassing to say the least to lie on the top of the bed with Miller facing away from him and him having to pretend to be asleep when she'd gone to get dressed in the bathroom and he'd hurriedly got changed before she came out. Now, Rose Tyler was in there getting a shower and any man would give his right arm to be in there with her and he wasn't even tempted.

He was really but he knew he didn't stand a chance with her – what would she want with a police detective who couldn't even convict a child killer? He'd redeemed himself with Sandbrook though, which was some relief and he'd have to go back at some point though Tess was taking care of the paperwork, since he was on medical leave and Miller was from another force.

He heard the bathroom door open and Rose came out rubbing her hair with a white towel.

"Does your hairdryer work Alec?"

"How would I know? I just arrived tonight."

"Sorry, I forgot."

She went to the dressing table, not sure whether to look for it or not.

He realised he was being rude, he was not talking to Tess or Miller.

"Here, let me find it for you, can't have you going to bed with wet hair, can we now?"

"Thanks Alec, I don't know what I would have done if you'd not rescued me. I feel really bad, about you sleeping in the lounge."

He found the hairdryer and plugged it in the socket for her and prepared himself for the noise it would make. She didn't take long as she sat on the stool in front of the mirror, her hair down over her face. It had been a long time since he'd seen Tess doing that.

It was almost eleven, Alec wondering how much longer to wait, Rose had taken about an hour getting herself showered and her hair dried.

"I think I will go downstairs now, everyone should have left the bar by now."

Rose sat on the edge of the bed, feeling really guilty and decided to confront him.

"Alec, don't take this the wrong way but maybe, if you slept on top of the bed, you could stay?"

"Rose, I had to share with my DS a while back, it was not my idea of fun."

"Well I'm not your DS, am I? Was that Ellie Miller?"

"Yes, there was a mix-up with the booking when we went to question someone in Sandbrook."

"I just thought, you might be uncomfortable on that sofa, it only just looked big enough for me."

"I'll manage but I will have to come back at seven, Becca's orders."

"Yeah, I'll pay half towards the room."

"No need, honestly, it was my pleasure to help you."

Rose got up and crossed over to him, reaching for his cheek and kissing it.

"You're a real gentleman Alec Hardy, sure I can't tempt you to stay?"

Everything within him was telling him to go, that it was the decent thing to do and let her get some much needed sleep but he'd embarrassingly shared a room with Miller, what was the difference?

"Well, now you mention it, Becca did not seem pleased with the prospect. I expect if one of the guests gets up early and finds me on the sofa, they may get a shock and report her for letting me."

"Is that why you offered to take my place?"

"Well yes, plus I was being courteous to you, what any man would do, under the same circumstances."

Rose laughed, touching his arm.

"You are kidding? I had several male officers at the conference chatting me up."

"What were you doing at a police conference?"

"Torchwood are trying to get their co-operation if any unusual occurrences happen off the coast. Someone from Wessex police would have been there."

"I am not a party to that, I don't start back until next week."

"Well you'll probably hear about it when you do go back. What we're asking isn't a lot, just to be informed and given access to investigate."

"You would be conducting the investigation yourself?" he asked, noticing she still held his arm, like she was trying to delay him.

Maybe he should stay, it may just be worth his while.

"It would be me or one of the team, there are a few of us, I got lucky and got down here when I could have got Sussex, I would have been home by now, in my own bed."

"The beds are comfortable enough, I have stayed here before."

Rose wasn't sure whether to mention Becca had already told her.

"Then I'll ask you again, do you really want to sleep on that sofa? You can stay if you promise to behave."

"Then I accept, I am just getting over heart surgery, so you kindly reminded me. So being in Torchwood, you found out about that?"

She wasn't going to admit she had been following both his last case and Sandbrook, whatever would he think of her?