Testing Times - Chapter 21 "The Inquisition"

Testing Times - A Tommy & Tamara Story  

Part
Twenty One

 

"The Inquisition"

 
Saturday 9th May (Continued)
 

Despite Elsie's assurance that Helen, now Lady Foreland, was prepared for the reading of the will, she was plainly not.

Helen had insisted Tammy sat next to her throughout the proceedings, looking to Tammy for constant reassurance. Tammy, in turn, repeatedly suggested that Jeremiah Smith's legal advice be sought. "He's here to look after your interests, Helen." It had not gone unnoticed to Richard just how close, literally and figuratively, Helen was to Tammy. The reverse was not as obvious.

Even at the outset, having confirmed Helen's identity and the business of those others present, the London-based solicitor needed to establish a valid correspondence address. Proceedings were held up whilst this was discussed

"When can I go home?"

"Your mother was remanded to Holloway Prison this morning and the magistrates have frozen her assets. We've also heard this morning that the press have arrived at your house, looking for you. Because of that, Police Scotland have placed an officer outside the door. We've put word out that you're staying with friends and they won't look for you here, not at first."

"So, Mr Brown, I can't go home any time soon?"

"As the house is part of your mother's frozen assets, you can't stay there at all, until the court resolves the issues. It might even be prudent to ask the court to sell the property to cover your mother's legal fees." Richard and Jeremiah nodded their agreement. "It would not be appropriate for you to finance your mother's defence, at least not overtly."

"Oh, so I won't have anywhere to live?"

"Helen, dear, I am more than happy for you to stay here, until this mess is resolved."

"Thank you Elsie. Mr Hempleford, I'd best use this address for my correspondence, not that anyone ever writes to me?"

"Lady Foreland, we wrote to you several times but had not received an acknowledgement."

"So it would seem, Mr Hempleford, but do you have to call me 'Lady Foreman'?"

"It is the appropriate title, Miss Salmond."

"If my mum really is this bad, I don't fancy staying a Salmond."

"You're a McPherson, dear." Elsie was in her element.

"Helen McPherson? I like the sound of that, don't I have to get permission to change it?"

"Not at all, Mr Smith can do it here but I suspect it would complicate Mr Hempleford's paperwork if we did it straight away."

The reading of the will continued well into lunchtime. Roland McPherson, Viscount Foreland, had also made allowances for various charities including sizeable gifts to St Andrews School and the Mill Theatre. Elsie volunteered to look after the dispersement of those donations.

It was clear Roland had done his best to minimise inheritance tax, each of the houses was run by a separate company, with tax-reducing schemes accounting for much of the will's explanations. Richard offered his support to Helen to sort it out but added that he was not a qualified financial advisor.

Tammy giggled at this point, causing all eyes to fall on her. "Sorry, one of the boys at school has been sent home, his father is a naughty financial advisor."

Finally, just before two in the afternoon, Mr Hempleford had concluded his business. "If I could be of any more assistance, Lady Foreland?"

"Thank you, I'm sure we can deal with anything else by fax?" Helen was finally becoming used to how business could be done.

Once he had left, Helen asked, "what's next?" She really did have little grip on her new circumstances.

By now she had Tammy's hand and was gripping it as if her life depended on it, Tammy needed space! "I'm sorry Helen but I have to go to my room, you might also freshen up? I believe some sandwiches are being brought through?"

They returned in the drawing room and made small talk whilst the late lunch was enjoyed. Tammy made a point of speaking to her father.

"She'll need new bank accounts."

"I know, but I can't help her until she confirms which name she's using."

"Okay, I'm worried for her."

"I'm worried for you, please be careful, Tammy, I don't want to see you hurt."

"I've told her I don't want a relationship, but she's persistent. She is also the only one in this room who doesn't know my history."

"You could get burnt, badly. You don't need any extra stress just before exams and you could be putting your career at risk."

"Yes Dad, I know."

"Anyway, it isn't really my place to say who you can sleep with."

Tammy blushed. "It wasn't like that!"

Richard paused, neither wanted to continue this conversation.

"Nice hair, by the way."

"Thanks." Tammy had dashed to the salon that morning, where Debbie had tidied her up. Fortunately Tanya wasn't around and the salon was too busy for Debbie to get any good gossip out of Tammy. At Elsie's suggestion, she'd booked Helen in for 'the works' on Monday.

They reconvened briefly once the empty plates had been cleared away.

"Helen, have you decided about your name?"

"Yes, Tammy, I'll change it."

"Are you certain?"

"Yes, Elsie. Is it true that I'm related to you?"

"You are my niece, Helen. I would be honoured if you chose McPherson for your name."

"Then I'll do it, is it complicated?"

"No, Lady Foreland. I can attend to that immediately." Jeremiah Smith was now stood next to the ladies. "Why don't we use the study?"

The paperwork took a few minutes, with the solicitor endorsing a pile of duplicates. "Helen looked bemused, how many am I going to need? Tammy?"

"Your school, St Andrews, the exam board, your doctor, the library, passport agency .... plenty."

By four o'clock, just Elsie, Helen and Tammy remained. Dave had gone with Richard to Dunbankin' so her could use the secure phone, Richard meanwhile was talking to his friends at the bank about Helen's future accounts. He was soon able to fax an account number to Mr Hempleford, ready for Monday morning.

Helen pestered Tammy to go swimming, Tammy agreed but first wanted to go to her room to put on her bikini.

"Why? I've always wondered what it's like to skinny-dip?"

"I'm not comfortable like that Helen, sorry but if you want to swim I need to change." Tammy started to climb the stairs to the Rose Room.

Outside Tammy heard a shout, followed by a second one. She came down the stairs just as Helen was going to open the front door.

"Don't!"

"I want to look."

"Don't open the door. Come into the drawing room instead, you'll see." Tammy turned on the TV and switched to the CCTV feed. Outside, they could see Elsie and two of her grounds staff. Richard and Dave Brown arrived a few minutes later in Richard's Landrover via the back road in order to support the others at the main gate. Tammy couldn't see who Elsie was addressing but could clearly hear instructions for the person, or persons, to get off her land.

She then heard the scullery door open and went to investigate, Jonathan was taking one of the shotguns from the gunrack, he also took a handful of salt shells from an ammo box, loading both chambers as he walked back towards the front of the house.

Helen was glued to the action, "what's going on?"

"My guess is that the press have tried to pay a visit."

"Oh, because of me?"

"Yes, but once they established a link to Viscount Foreland, they would have tried to speak to Elsie anyway. She should have anticipated this, we had all sorts of trouble with me, curious why the main gate wasn't shut already, though."

Tammy regretted the words as they came out of her mouth.

"What trouble with you?"

"Don't worry, it was nothing."

"I heard stories from the girls at my school."

"Don't believe stories."

"They said you used to be a boy."

"And?"

"I did wonder how a boy's school that wasn't admitting girls, had girls in the sixth form?"

"Somebody had to be first."

"Except it sounds like you had been there years."

There was a noise behind them, "there you are girls." Tammy was grateful for the interruption.

"Yes, Dad. Did the press leave voluntarily?"

"Not really, and we can't see that an injunction would be useful as Helen's over eighteen."

"Quite. Are the gates now shut?"

"Yes, the dogs are also being allowed out until dusk."

Elsie stormed back inside a few minutes later, by which time Tammy had switched off the telly. Helen went to apologise for the trouble she was causing.

"Don't be silly, child. It gets boring up here at times, a little excitement never hurt anyone."

Richard and Dave soon drove back to the other house whilst Elsie decided she was going to her room. That left the two girls on their own; Tammy was becoming very uncomfortable.

"Tammy, I love you regardless, but was it true what the girls at school were saying?"

"Did they mention my name?"

"Not as such."

"You mean, not at all?"

"Yes, okay, not at all."

Tammy took a deep breath.

"Yes, I did attend St Andrews as a boy until last year."

"But you're a girl?"

"Yes, I'm a girl."

"The girls at my school, and mum, said there were boys in skirts at the school."

"All the boys have a kilt as part of their uniform, but I would hardly call that a skirt."

"No, no, am I getting confused?"

Tammy gave up.

"Helen, I attended St Andrews as a boy and transitioned last year. I've attended as a girl since December."

"Weren't you in West Side Story?"

"Yes."

"When were you given the part?"

"November."

"So you were a girl then?"

"Yes."

"But you were a boy at school?"

"Yes, at first."

"Why the confusion?"

"I've always been a girl, I suppose, but I have a plumbing problem that meant people didn't understand."

"Oh, is that why you don't want to be seen naked?"

"Yes."

"Can't it be fixed?"

"I've been offered surgery for this autumn."

"Then you'll be alright?"

"Yes."

"Oh my dear, it must have been awful. Stuck in that school, too."

"I coped, Helen, I coped."

"Does Elsie know this?"

"Yes, but I don't broadcast it."

"I understand." Helen gave Tammy a tight hug followed by a lingering kiss. "How about that swim?"

"Yes, but we both need to do some revision too."

"Agreed. Is it too late for me to drop Politics as one of my exams?"

"Because of your mother?"

"Yes."

"No, do your best, regardless of what's gone on."

"Sure, if you say so."

"Helen, don't go along with whatever I say, or anyone else for that matter, be your own person. You are on the cusp of a new life with new challenges and new responsibilities, please do your best for yourself, no-one else, based on the best advice you can get."

 
Sunday 10th May
 

Tammy reminded Elsie over breakfast of her plan for the day, and invited Helen to join her for lunch at the Castletown.

"That's the first I've heard of it and I don't think that's a good idea."

"It's only lunch."

"And it's a very public place, rumours spread very quickly."

Helen kept quiet, the previous day she had been told what she was entitled to, making her a very wealthy young lady with a title.

"Tammy, I still don't think it's a very good idea, why not invite Miss Smith and Mr Hibbert here for lunch instead? I'll ask Jonathan to collect them."

Helen became concerned, "Tanya Smith? She doesn't like me."

"Don't be silly Helen, I know Tanya didn't like your mother but she was okay about you."

"I suppose so."

"Look, if you want good gossip spread around, Tanya is definitely the way to do it." That earned Tammy a glare from Elsie, but Helen laughed.

"I don't think anyone would believe a word of what I say unless it came from a good source!"

"I have to agree with you Helen, but Tammy's approach is the wrong one. We'll have a lunch here, I'll inform the kitchen now. Tammy, please tell me the guest list."

Tammy sighed, "those present plus Angela, Tanya, John and Lori."

"Lori?"

"She's the third girl at St Andrews, Helen. You'll see her when you take your exams so it's best if you meet her first."

"Okay. I've seen John with Tanya before but I don't think I've met Angela."

"She's my sister and was in Macbeth with me, did you see it?"

"Yes, mother was quite insistent. Anyway, she can rot in hell."

The room fell silent, Elsie decided to find the cook. That left Dave Brown and the girls.

"Tammy, could I speak to you in the study?"

Tammy looked at Helen. "I'll only be a few minutes, but why don't you go you tour room to do some revision?"

"Okay."

Tammy followed Dave, closing the study door.

"Tammy, you do know that I'll be submitting a report concerning your involvement this weekend?"

"Yes, do I need to submit a written report?"

"Please do, but wait until you have enough free time."

"Okay. I'm not in a relationship with her, by the way."

"I never said you were, but please be careful. Does she know your background?"

"Sort of, she really is quite naive."

"Please be very careful, she could be an awful security risk."

"Once this weekend's over I'll see less of her. Elsie will keep her in check."

"Yes, but Elsie can't control her when she's at the school, and what if she needs to go into town? She could hardly be locked indoors, again?"

"I see, she'll need a chaperone. I guess that'll be me?"

"Not necessarily, but we'll need to restrict her contacts. We're having all mail to the family home intercepted and delivered to Caithness Marine so we'll deal with any fishing exercises by the press or gold diggers."

"Angela had a few of them."

"So I heard. Anyway, I have your contract here." He pulled a pack out of a folder. "It's actually two contracts, and the Official Secrets Act."

"I signed that before?"

"And you'll sign it again, and again! The first contract is a standard undergraduate contract with Caithness Marine, renewable annually."

"Okay."

"The second is a Security Service contract. You'll get a retainer plus pay when you're doing training or in Cornwall."

"Oh, this is getting serious isn't it?"

"It's already serious, young lady. Please read all the pages and ask questions if you need to. I'll be ten minutes as I'm going up to pack."

"Leaving?"

"Yes, I'll take the lunchtime train so I can be in London tomorrow morning. Deal with Hilary for everything that's not related to your summer work experience, but Hilary does not need to know what you discuss with Heather or Sophie, understand?"

"Yes, need-to-know."

"Exactly."

Tammy read through the documents, taking her time. She wasn't being asking to hand over a pound of flesh or sign away her liberty and was free to refuse to sign. That would however mean the end of her employment and career opportunities. She signed.

Back in the drawing room, Tammy made the phone calls inviting everyone to lunch and a swim beforehand. Angela was her usual non-committal but promised she would consider it. Lori initially declined when the pool was mentioned.

"I don't have a swimsuit, plus I'm not comfortable being semi-naked around anyone."

"Okay, but still come to the lunch please. I'll arrange for you to be collected."

"If you insist."

"Be ready at eleven, please."

She gave the same information to Tanya who begged for exclusive gossip rights.

"We'll discuss that when you get here!"

"I'll ask mum to drop us up to you now."

"Helen's doing revision, she needs a couple of hours of normality. We're collecting Lori so can collect the pair of you at the same time. Remind John he's got to go back to school today."

"Fine, that gives me a few hours with him!"

***

Tammy joined Jonathan in the Range Rover as they went to collect the 18 year olds. Lori was first.

"I'm not sure about this."

"Don't worry, plus I'll be asking you to keep an eye on Helen at the school so you need to be on good terms with her."

"If you say so."

They headed for Sandy Smith's house to collect the other two. John was carrying his weekend bag.

When they arrived Tammy suggested they went to her room.

"Anyone who needs to change can use my bathroom." She started to take off her summer dress where she was stood, causing John to blush. This revealed her bikini. "I'm ready."

"Nice, girl. Your first bikini?"

Tammy nodded, John disappeared into the bathroom looking a little uncomfortable.

Tanya was also already wearing a bikini so quickly shed her top & leggings. That left Lori.

"I don't have a swimsuit."

"I'm sure we could find one?"

Tanya opened her bag, "I brought a spare suit just in case. Did you want to borrow it?

"Err, thanks, but I'm still not sure."

John now returned in a pair of swim shorts, holding a pile of clothes. "Put those on my bed, John. Lori, get in that bathroom!"

The bedroom door opened, Helen was stood there in a swimsuit. "Hi Helen, that swimsuit looks familiarr, Tammy?"

"Yes, Tanya, it's one of mine."

Helen came over to Tammy, gave her a kiss and took her hand.

Tanya didn't miss a beat, "I see". Tammy blushed.

"What are we waiting for?" Asked Helen.

"Me!" was the muffled response from behind the bathroom door. Tammy suggested Tanya led the way while she waited for Lori who had never been to the house before. Once the coast was clear she tapped on the bathroom door.

"Are you okay? They've all gone."

"I'm frightened I'll tear this suit."

"They stretch."

"Okay, oh!"

"What is it?"

I haven't had my arms waxed for weeks, and I only did half a leg because I never wear anything shorter than knee length."

"You need to see Joanne then."

"I can't do this."

"Yes you can, it's only us. You can't hide every time."

"I can."

"That won't help, come on."

"I'll look like a freak."

"I doubt that."

"You don't know, you wouldn't know."

"Wouldn't I Lori? Have you forgotten?"

"Oh, sorry. Okay, but don't laugh." The bathroom door opened and Tammy looked Lori in the eye.

"You look better in that than some girls I've seen on Mediterranean beaches."

Lori started to cry.

"I hope that your mascara is waterproof, come on."

Helen, Tanya and John were mucking around in the water with an inflatable ball when the pair reached the pool.

"I won't be a minute!" Angela had just arrived, she quickly lost her top and skirt to reveal a one-piece suit.

John decided that three-a-side volleyball was needed, not that there was a net. Tammy made a note to order a net for their pool.

It didn't take long for all of them to forget any inhibitions, but it didn't help when Anna come down to the pool.

"Excuse me, Madam would like to remind you that lunch is in half a hour and a guest has asked to speak to Lady Foreland."

"I wonder who wants to see me?" ventured Helen.

"Lady Foreland? You're joking?"

"No Tanya, I only found out yesterday that my father was a Viscount and a McPherson. Unfortunately I never knew him as my mother blocked all access. Then the stupid bitch locks me in the house and tries to steal my inheritance."

"Is that why she was arrested?"

Helen nodded, she'd moved over to Tammy and took her hand. "Tammy's been a great help."

"Come on everyone, let's get ourselves sorted." Tammy needed to get out of the pool.

They took turns under the shower. John was told to go first then sent up to Tammy's bathroom to change. Once he had gone Helen stripped, Tanya and Tammy removed their tops and Lori felt isolated. One by one they wrapped towels then headed up, Tanya opting to use Helen's bathroom to get changed.



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