The Tyler family were getting ready for their Christmas trip. Tony had been dying to spend Christmas away and now he was older, his dad had agreed so they had hired a holiday cottage by the beach in a small seaside town called Broadchurch and Jackie had chosen an end of terrace bright pink house that she thought would be perfect. They were going to spend 10 nights there, returning on the 2nd January and they were all looking forward to the break.
So on the 23rd, everyone piled into Pete's large SUV, Tony was in his booster seat, arguing with his dad that he was old enough at seven to do without it but Rose talked him into it by saying when they got there, while mum and dad unpacked, she would take him to find the local Police Station.
Tony Tyler had a 'thing' for Police Stations. He had been to nearly every single one within the London area in less than two years and each station had been only too happy to play host to the chairman of the Vitex corporation's son.
The first thing Tony wanted to do was go down to the sea even though it was cold so Rose said she would unpack later and take him down then while their parents went back to the supermarket they had seen a sign for back on the main road, she would go find him the local Police Station. So Pete said he would have to get a spare key from the agency the next day and said they would call her when they got back. Tony and Rose set off to the beach, trying to keep her young brother out of the water and from getting his trainers wet, unsuccessfully and Rose had found a map of the town on the internet and said they had to walk across the other side of the harbour.
Trudging in squeaky trainers, the young boy held his sister's hand as they followed the harbour road, crossing over the bridge and Tony watching all the birds on the river and pointing out a run-down blue cabin by the water's edge that seemed to stick out more than the other cabins, then he wanted to look at the other side at the boats and finally, they were opposite the Police Station steps.
Rose had read about the town, how a young boy had been murdered and wondered why her mother had chosen the place to spend the holidays but it was all over, the killer had been caught and there was no likelihood the events were going to repeat themselves so she knew her brother was safe and he wasn't going to be left alone for a minute.
They sat on the wall when Rose went to get him a drink from an outdoor café that was still open, there were quite a few people around surprisingly and Tony was dying to get into the station. They had just crossed the road and Tony as usual bounded up the steps, knowing to wait at the top but he had just almost reached the door as Rose got to the top step and as he turned back around, he almost collided with a tall man just coming out.
"Whoa there young man, easy," the man said as he caught Tony in time to stop him colliding with him.
"Sorry Mister," the boy grinned up at him, the man still holding the boy's arms carefully so as not to hurt him.
Rose caught up and Tony pulled his arms away, going back to Rose. Rose smiled and apologised for her enthusiastic brother.
"Sorry about that, he gets excited when he sees a Police Station and can't wait to look inside, it's his hobby."
"That's ok. Are you the boy's mother?"
Rose laughed but it was Tony that spoke. "No Mister, she's my big sister, my mum went shopping and Rose is taking me into the Police Station, I want to see where you lock bad people up. I've been to every single Police Station in London," the boy grinned, crossing his arms and tapping his foot that he wanted to go in.
Rose smiled. "Sorry about my brother, he gets impatient when he knows where he's going."
"That's alright Miss. I'm Detective Inspector Alec Hardy and please, go ahead, I'm sure your brother can be accommodated, there are not many people around with it being the holidays."
"Thanks. Will it be ok if we just go in? We don't need to come back?"
"No, it will be fine. I've finished for the day, I can take you in if you like, it's no trouble." He turned to the boy. "What's your name son?"
"Tony Tyler Sir. Are you really a policeman? Where's your uniform? Do you have a police car?"
Alec smiled. "I don't wear a uniform and yes I have a police car but it's a plain one."
"Does it have lights and a siren?"
"Yes but I have to put them on only in emergencies. Would you like to go inside Tony?" Alec asked, pointing to the door.
Tony didn't need to be asked twice.
Rose followed at a distance, knowing her brother was safe going inside accompanied by the man who solved the Broadchurch murder. She had read all about him, followed the news and read all about his illness and the case that had haunted him finally being laid to rest. The reason she had followed so closely was because without his beard, the detective inspector resembled someone she missed dearly and would never see again but she was not going to let that get in the way of her brother's enjoyment. She had recognised him instantly but never imagined she would actually meet him but there again, she should have half expected it since she had told her brother they were going where he worked.
Alec walked up to the front desk and the sergeant looked up. "Thought you'd left for the holidays Sir, getting in some overtime?"
"No, I came back to escort a young visitor around the station since it's quiet. I'll give him a quick tour since hardly anyone is working. Can you give him a visitor badge?"
Tony tugged on the bottom of Alec's coat. "I want to see where you lock people up and where you introgate them."
Alec smiled, looking at Rose, who was doing the same. "You mean interrogate them?"
The boy grinned and nodded. "Yeah, introgate them and make them tell you they were naughty. Then you lock them up."
Alec ruffled the boy's blonde hair. How could he have known the woman wasn't the boy's mother? They looked so much alike.
"Well Tony, I'll get the keys and I can show you inside and lock you in if you like?"
"Really?" The boy's face lit up. "You'll lock me in? Cool! Rose, he's going to lock me in!"
Rose smiled. Now Alec knew her name and he knew where he had heard the name before when the boy said Tyler. She was Rose Tyler, the Vitex heiress and she was in his Police Station. He had read about her and about her mother marrying the president of the Vitex corporation in a whirlwind romance and her being adopted. Back when he had been married, his ex was jealous of the young woman, coming into all that money through her mother's marriage and had followed her story and all the events she had attended for her mother's charities.
He should have recognised her, she was constantly in magazines he had seen when he was in hospital, photos of her at charity events and attending other occasions. She looked ordinary enough to him, she wasn't dressed like she had money, she was wearing black trousers with knee high boots, a pink jumper and a herringbone three-quarter length coat. Alec was proud of his observations, her blonde hair was shoulder length and was sort of curled and brushed back. She was a natural beauty, she wasn't wearing any make-up. There was nothing false about Rose Tyler.
It was when she smiled though, he could see why she was constantly in the news and why every week it was claimed she had a new man interested in her, her name being linked with actors and other personalities including one that he thought resembled himself, especially when he had a beard for a role he was playing which these days seemed constantly since the actor was playing a role probably based on himself about a girl's murder in a small town in Somerset. There had even been rumours in the town that they would be filming there but the police knew nothing about it. Some had even joked he could be the actor's stand-in.
Tony beamed as he was handed the visitors badge and Alec took him down to the interview room and sat him down opposite. Rose stood by the door smiling.
Alec was going to give the boy the full works, asking him his name and how old he was. When they came out, he led them down the corridor and through a door to the holding cells and he opened one of them, letting Tony in first.
"Right Tony, this is where we leave you. You want me to lock you in?"
The boy nodded, a big grin on his face. He sat on the bench with his arms folded, waiting for the door to close. "Come on Mister, shut the door," Tony said impatiently, swinging his legs under the bench.
Alec started to close the door. "You can call me Alec and I'll lock the door for five minutes then I'll let you out again. If you've had enough, just knock or shout and I'll let you out."
"I won't want to come out," the boy replied adamantly, a sulk on his face replacing the grin.
"Well, we'll see about that."
Rose laughed. "Well we'll just have to explain to mum and dad that you wouldn't come out, then you'll miss your tea and putting the tree up tonight."
Tony thought about it. Alec closed the door and locked it, leaving the small window and the hatch open and allowed Rose to look through. Tony was happily still swinging his legs and singing something about London Bridge, though what that had to do about being locked up, only the boy himself knew.
Alec took the opportunity to talk to Rose at last, since the boy had been through the station like a whirlwind.
"It's really good of you to do this Alec, he won't stop talking about all over Christmas now. I don't expect you get many small boys wanting a tour."
"Not really, though I've had to interview a few, especially during my last case. I take it you know about that?"
"Yes, it was tragic about that poor boy. His family must be feeling the effect now at this time of year. We've just come down for the holidays, we've rented a cottage by the beach. You've probably seen it, that pink one on the end."
Alec knew it, it was just at the side of the cottage he had rented until spring next year. He had got a good deal on a two bedroomed holiday cottage that would have remained empty and been able to move into when he came out of hospital. His friend Ellie had helped him move and he had just got his job back part-time and been allowed to drive again. He'd moved back to the hotel for a few weeks until the house was empty of the last of the holiday-makers but it was now his temporary home when he would have to decide by the end of March if he was going to stay or get another transfer. Now everything was out in the open, he should have less trouble finding someone to take him.
There was no sound coming from inside the cell. Rose was worriedly looking through the hatch to see Tony still singing to himself. It had been over five minutes. Alec smiled at Rose.
"Best let him out then or he'll miss putting up the tree. Have you just arrived?"
"Yeah, a couple of hours ago, I brought him out while mum and dad went shopping and getting unpacked. I'll have to go get Tony something to eat soon, I don't know how long they will be out."
"There's a café by the harbour, you probably saw it. I can take you and your brother over when we've finished here, that's if we can get him out of this cell."
He unlocked the door and Tony made no effort to get up. "Come on Tony, time to go now. You've served your time and I'm letting you out for good behaviour. I'm putting your sister in charge of you. If she tells me you've been naughty, she can bring you back and I'll lock you up again."
Rose wished he hadn't said that, the boy would now be thinking of all sorts of ways of getting into trouble to get locked up again.
"Thanks Alec, that was really cool!" Tony grinned, putting his arms around Alec's legs and looking up at him. "Can I see your office now?"
"I suppose so, if your sister doesn't mind?"
"No, it's fine, lead the way."
They went upstairs to the CID room and into Alec's office, getting looks from the few personnel who were still working, them wondering if it was Hardy's girlfriend or wife and his son and Tony climbed onto the leather sofa.
"Thanks Alec, that was great. This is the best Police Station I've been in."
Alec sat behind his desk that was tidy for a change. "It was my pleasure to show you around. Now why don't we go over to the café and get you something to eat? It will be dark soon and they'll be switching the lights on around the harbour."
The boy crawled over onto Rose's lap as she sat down beside him.
"You've done enough already Alec, thanks. I can take Tony for something to eat."
"I have to go that way, I live over there, just behind where you're staying."
"Oh. Ok then, maybe you could walk us back, it will be dark soon, I never realised what time it was and we've been out longer than I thought. I'm surprised mum hasn't called to see where we are but I suppose it will be mad in the supermarket."
Alec didn't want to think about it, he still had to go do his shopping and get presents for Ellie's two sons and a bottle of wine for her to take with him. He had promised he would go down for Christmas dinner since he had decided not to attempt the journey to Scotland. His daughter had contacted him when he was in hospital but she had never come down to visit. He had hoped she would forgive him now everything was in the open but it may take her a bit longer. He had to call Ellie to say he would be taking her up on her offer.
Tony was up in a flash and pulling his sister up. "Come on Rose, I'm hungry. When will mum and dad be back?"
"I don't know Sweetheart but we'll go to the café, Alec's going to take us."
"Cool. Alec, can we go in your police car?"
Alec laughed. "Sorry, I don't have it with me, I walk to work."
The boy looked at him. "Then how do you chase bad guys?"
"I have a driver who takes me out when I need to go anywhere."
Tony seemed satisfied by his answer and got Rose to her feet. Alec switched out the light and they went back downstairs, Alec taking the visitors badge from Tony and handing it back. The desk sergeant smiled to himself, he had never seen the detective show anyone around before and wondered if he was trying to impress the young blonde woman that was with him.
Alec led them back down the steps but Tony wanted to go the other way. It was starting to get dark but he insisted on seeing what was on the other side of the wall so they crossed over and Alec lifted him onto the sea wall as the waves came crashing over the rocks. Tony was laughing as they got nearer, saying he wanted them get even closer. Alec was cringing at the thought, he really hated the sea. He lifted Tony back down and they started walking back.
The few Christmas lights had come on as they walked back. Tony was holding Rose's hand but he held his other hand out to Alec, who just looked at Rose and she nodded it was ok. Reaching the other side of the harbour, Rose could see their pink cottage but there was no car parked at the side so she assumed her parents were still out. Stepping into the nice warm café, Tony went to sit on one of the benches at a table by the window, sitting himself in the middle.
Rose sat on one of the chairs so Alec took the other one next to her, looking at the menu. Rose wasn't really hungry but she didn't know when she would get anything else so she chose something and a children's meal for Tony, getting up to go to the counter. Alec got up and followed her.
"I'll get these Rose, my treat," he offered as Rose made her order.
Rose looked at him. "Thanks, that's really nice of you." She put her purse away and crossed back to her brother. "Move over Tony and let me sit there please," she asked, standing in the gap between the tables.
Tony shook his head and folded his arms, a trait he had inherited from his mother. "Nope," was all he said.
"Tony, you can't take all the room up, now move over."
He remained where he was until he saw Alec crossing back to the table. "Want Alec to sit here," Tony declared, moving over.
Alec smiled at the boy and squeezed through the gap, sitting at his side as the waitress brought a tray with some juice for Tony and tea and coffee for Rose and Alec. Rose thought how good he was with her brother but she had read he had a daughter and she supposed it just came natural to him.
"So Tony, did you enjoy your tour of the Police Station then?" Alec asked, pouring milk into his cup.
"It was great Alec but I wish I could have gone in your police car."
"Well it doesn't really look like a police car, it's just black."
Tony looked disappointed. "Rose, when we get back are we putting the tree up?"
"Yes, when mum and dad get back. We don't have a key yet, remember? We have to wait for them so we'll stay here until mum rings."
"But Rose, that could take ages," the boy complained as his meal arrived.
Alec could see the look on Rose's face, wondering how she was going to keep her brother occupied if her parents weren't back by the time they were ready to leave.
"Well Tony, would you like to come and see my house? I live just at the back of where you are staying. It's nice and warm and you can wait there. If that's ok with your sister?"
Rose didn't have much choice. Her mother had complained they had only been left one key and the letting office were going to get the owner to drop another key off in the morning. "That's very kind of you Alec. We don't want to be any trouble. We didn't get a spare key so my dad has it."
"It's no trouble. The café will be closing soon and there's nowhere else to go, everywhere will be closing soon. Honestly, I'll enjoy the company and it's just around the corner from you and only a few yards away. You can't walk around, it's dark and it's cold and you have a seven year old boy to think about."
Rose thought about it, it was really good of him. "Ok, thanks, I'll call mum and see where they are."
Tony had eaten most of his meal when he declared he needed the bathroom so Alec offered to go with him while Rose called her mother.
"How much longer are you going to be Mum? Tony and I are in the café but it's closing soon."
"Rose, it's murder in here and we're only half way around. We managed to get a tree but it's not as nice as the one at home. Is Tony ok? Did he get inside the Police Station?"
Rose turned around to see Alec waiting outside the door to the Gents, the door slightly open asking if Tony needed help, to which he got a firm "No" that Rose could hear him. She didn't know how to break the news that Tony had made a new friend and wanted to bring him home with him probably. She smiled across at Alec, who smiled back.
"Well Mum, about that. Yes he got in, got interviewed by a detective inspector then got locked in a cell for ten minutes because he didn't want to come out. I had to bribe him to get him to leave. Then he insisted on seeing the detective's office, then he wanted to stand on the sea wall as the waves were crashing up and now we've been invited to wait with the detective until you come back."
All Jackie could manage was a "What?"
"It's fine Mum, the detective just lives around the corner from our cottage. He's the one that solved that murder a few months ago, do you remember?"
Jackie did. Rose had been following the investigation because the detective looked like a certain Timelord she used to know. "Well ok, I'll call you when we get back, this wouldn't have happened if we had brought things with us."
Rose could hear Pete saying they didn't have to room to bring all the shopping they were going to need for the holidays. Rose laughed at the thought of them arguing over how many different types of cakes and other treats they were going to get. Tony had finally come out after Alec had to go in after him when the boy was taking his time and persuaded him the café was closing and they would all get locked in for the night. Rose said goodbye to her mother and got up to join them by the door.
They walked across the car park to a row of houses, Alec's being the first, a black SUV parked outside.
"Is this your police car Alec?" Tony asked him, admiring it.
"Yes, now why don't we get out of the cold and go inside?" He opened the door, allowing Rose and Tony in first and switched the lights on.
Tony went to sit on the chair but only after Rose made him take his still damp trainers off in the entryway.
"Tony, your feet are still wet from earlier, I told you not to walk in the water, didn't I?" The boy just grinned at Alec as he sat down.
Alec went to the kitchen area and brought a clean towel and handed it to Rose. "Here, dry his feet on this and I'll put his socks on the radiator to dry."
Tony was already pulling his wet socks off as Rose went to dry his feet after taking her coat off and handing hers and Tony's jacket to Alec in exchange for the towel. Alec had taken his coat off and went back to the kitchen, switching the kettle on.
"I'll make us a drink Rose, I've got some juice for Tony. My friend has two boys who come and visit sometimes."
Rose wondered if his friend was male or female then remembered that his ex DS had a family and supposed it was her he was talking about.
Tony was wriggling his feet around and laughing as Rose dried them properly. Alec smiled to himself watching them. Ellie had brought her two boys here but watching Rose with her brother brought back memories of when he used to fuss over his daughter. Making drinks and handing Tony some juice, Alec sat on the sofa next to Rose.
"So, are you both looking forward to Christmas?" he asked, thinking he would be on his own had it not been for Ellie's offer.
"I am," Tony replied. "I'm getting a bike but it's at home, dad said there was no room in the car for it."
"Tony, you know you can ride it when we get back. You'll get other presents too." Tony made a face at her.
Alec still had to go shopping but he was playing host. He would have to go later, it was only four thirty. Rose had just put her cup down when her phone rang.
"Rose, we're back but could you wait a bit longer so we can wrap some presents up? Just give us half an hour."
Rose looked at Alec who was trying to entertain her brother. "Yeah, we'll be fine though I think Alec may be glad when we give him his house back."
"Oh, it's Alec now is it? What happened to the detective?" her mother half joked.
Rose forgot. "His name's Alec Hardy and I think Tony got a new best friend."
Rose wasn't going to be wrong. Half an hour later, his socks almost dry and him getting his trainers back on, Tony was pulling on Alec's arm as he yanked him around the corner to meet his mum and dad. The boy had insisted Alec came to help him put the tree up when he'd asked where Alec's tree was and he said he hadn't got one yet. Alec knew at this rate he would have to maybe leave his shopping until later, the supermarket was open late for the holidays. He may even leave it until early tomorrow morning, he was going to ask Rose to go over to the pub with him for a drink.
Rose did the introductions as an excited Tony wanted to start putting the tree up, insisting Alec had come to help him and telling his mother how he had been locked up in a police cell. Pete smiled at his young son and thanked Alec for looking after him so well.
"Well Mr Tyler, you have a great boy there, he really enjoyed himself and Rose was there to make sure he behaved."
Pete already liked the man and had also read what had happened to him. "Please, call me Pete. I'm afraid Tony gets a bit excited. He's never actually been locked in a cell before."
Alec smiled. "Well we were stood outside the entire time and the key was in the lock. Rose kept looking through the hatch at him."
Jackie had got the tree out of the box with Rose's help and was putting it on the stand. Soon, Tony had decorations all over the floor and Alec was handing them to him for Rose to put them exactly where on each branch he wanted them. It was after six when they finally finished, Jackie wanted to get Tony his tea, then his bath and to bed, complaining his socks were dried up and asking what had happened, Rose having to explain and getting a look.
When Jackie had finally got Tony upstairs, Alec asked Rose if she wanted to go for a drink with him later. "Yeah, I'd love to after dinner, mum's already getting it ready. Would you like to join us? She always makes too much and she'll insist you stay." Jackie's cookery skills had vastly improved after she had taken basic lessons from their cook.
Alec really wanted to and the shopping could always wait, he would go when the supermarket opened in the morning and get there before the rush. So they all moved into the kitchen to eat, Jackie laying four places, Tony already having some soup because he'd already eaten something earlier, Pete asked Alec about his job now all the fuss had died down and Alec made no secret of saying he was finding it boring now. He knew he had been all over the papers but this was the first time he had sat down with a family and talked for a long time.
"So Alec, what are you doing for Christmas day?" Jackie asked as she and Rose cleared the dishes.
"Oh, I was going down to Weymouth to a friends' on Christmas day and nothing special on Boxing Day. I'm on emergency callout over the holidays but only if the entire south coast of Britain collapses into the sea or something equally drastic."
Jackie was appalled the man had to travel so he wouldn't be on his own. "Well, why are you driving all that way down there for? Come round and join us, we're only around the corner. You can see your friend the day after. Tony would love it if you were here, wouldn't he Rose?"