Testing Times - Chapter 3 "Full Service"

Testing Times - A Tommy & Tamara Story  

Part Three


"Full Service"


Sunday 12th April

"So, John, when did Sandy say you could stay there?"

"From Tuesday, Tanya's brother David, is there at the moment, Mr Smart."

"John, please call me Richard here, well you're welcome to stay here until Tuesday."

"Thank you, Richard."

They were sat at the breakfast table, but were fending for themselves as both staff had the day off. Tammy was playing with her tablet computer, having finished her ceral and toast.

"Tammy, don't forget you are cooking dinner this evening, or does that device tell you it's your turn? You got out of it for two weeks!"

Tammy looked up, "yes, mum."

"I'll help, Tammy."

"Thanks John, you don't have to."

"I do, if Tanya and I are moving into the cottage then one of us should know how to cook!"

Tammy laughed, she'd long suspected that cooking was not one of Tanya's qualities. "Thank you John for the offer. Now, I think we should have a revision day?"

Tammy and John shared subjects. "What's the first exam?"

"I have the full list of our subjects on my tablet, here's the first couple of weeks." She passed it to John.

13th May am Maths: Core Maths C1
15th May am English Lit Unit 1: Explorations In Prose & Poetry
18th May am Business Studies Unit 1: Developing New Business Ideas
20th May am Maths: Core Maths C2

"Just two a week, I can cope with that!"

"The last few weeks have three exams and all bar two of the exams are in the morning."

"Sounds good, what about you Angela?"

"I haven't looked at the exam timetable yet."

"Aren't you planning?"

"Not in the same way, John, I'll revise the subjects as best I can then turn up at the exams."

"That's unfocussed."

"To you, maybe, but not to me."

Tammy felt she had to intervene, noting that their parents were keeping quiet. "John, what I think Angela is trying to say is that if she has revised as well as she can then it doesn't matter what order the exams come in, just so long as you attend the correct one on the day."

"I see your point, it's just not the way I've done it."

"Well, when you're at work, do you know in advance what enquiries will arrive at your desk or do you just deal with it as it happens?"

"Well, the second one."

"Exactly, and you can treat these exams in the same way. Shall we use my room?"

All three of them shared maths and english as subjects, with maths being the more problematic subject. They had several past papers available so each tackled the first of the 2013 papers, within the set time limit of ninety minutes. After a coffee break they went through the answers.

"I'm hopeless," offered Angela.

"No you're not, let's finish marking then we'll have a look at each of the wrong answers and work out where we went wrong."

The marking took longer than the exam as each answer was examined in detail.

"Angela, you didn't do too badly at all, that's easily a 'B'."

"Where the pair of you will get an 'A' or 'A*'."

"So could you," suggested Tammy, "just don't rush the more difficult questions."

"I still don't think I can do that much, and it hardly matters - does it?"

"Well, you only need two C grades to get onto your course, don't you?"

"Yes, so why should I worry if I can't get an 'A'?"

"Pride, self-satisfaction."

"Don't need them."

John interjected, "Angela, don't knock yourself. You are capable of doing very well, but just do what you can then see if you can't surprise yourself?"

"Yeah, I don't need to impress anyone else, do I?"

"No you don't, have pride in yourself, believe in yourself and don't worry about anyone else's opinion."

"That's easy to say, John, but hard to do when you're as insecure as me."

"Look, just be yourself and sod the rest. When you do believe in yourself, so will the others. Don't forget that you get a whole new group of friends at university."

"I'll still be here, so will both of you."

"But we're not on the same course, you probably haven't met anyone who's doing that course yet. They don't know you so it'll be blank-canvas time."


There was a shout for lunch from downstairs which had the group all decide they needed the loo.

There was a group decision after lunch to work on their own. Tammy first checked her messages, finding one from Heather.

Hi Tammy, sorry didn't get back to you on Thursday but we've been busy. Glad you enjoyed your time down here. Heather

She checked her diary, although some of the entries were now coded in case anyone saw them, indeed Tammy had spent one whole day recently being warned about hacking and personal security. It made her a little concerned about making the trek back to Thurso alone so bumping into John in Glasgow had been a relief. Working for a secret government agency should sound like something special, instead it meant carrying a whole load of rules around in her head.

"Tammy, I was calling for you?"

"Err, what Angela?"

"It's my exam calendar, there's a problem."

"Well, you might need to get the school to speak to the exam board."

"I don't think they'll agree to change anything, somehow."

"So what is it?"

"We've got the first exam on the thirteenth?"

"Yes, it's maths part one."

"Right, that's in the morning and I have my first history exam in the afternoon."

"A double day? That's bad news."

"Yeah. I can always forget about history and not turn up?"

"No, you will not."

"I've thought about it, you know who my history teacher was?"

"Your dad."

"Yes, he made my life hell in those lessons, telling me I wasn't good enough."

"So why did you choose it?"

"I didn't, he chose all my subjects, I didn't get a single word."

"Does mum know?"

"I think so, but he would have denied it at the time."

"Look, you've had Mr Thompson teaching history since November, haven't you?"


"So that's most of this school year, did Mr Thompson ever say anything negative about you?"

"Not really."

"So it wasn't your problem, it was you father's. That means the problem went when he did. Oh, I'm sorry."

"It's okay, I'm over it."

Tammy gave her sister a hug, it looked like she needed one, especially as Angela started to cry.

John arrived in Tammy's doorway, "Tammy ....". She held a finger to her lips and mouthed "get Joan" to him.


"Do I need to show you how to peel potatoes, John?"

"I think I can manage that Miss Smart."

"Less cheek, please, and more work!"

The pair had left Angela and her mother discussing Angela's insecurities, a tactical retreat seemed to be the sensible approach to this particular issue. They were preparing dinner although there was still several hours before it would be served, one of the joys of a Sunday roast is the amount of time required.

"John, I almost offered to treat everyone to dinner in town."

"Under the circumstances you would have ended up phoning to cancel, and we would still have been in here peeling veg!"


"One thing though, Tammy, I'm wondering if I'm doing the right thing?"

"The exams?"

"No, Tanya."

"Please don't have second thoughts. She was in the wrong yesterday and I don't think she'll make that mistake again."

"That was still a mean right hook!" John was rubbing the side of his face.

"Has she hit you before?"

"Yes, about four weeks ago."

"Oh dear."

"Oh dear what?"

"Just put an entry in your diary for every four weeks, starting yesterday. I suggest you use DNPT."


"Do not provoke Tanya, she's going to be hazardous for a few days every four weeks so it's best you know in advance."

"What if she asks what it is?"

"Dinner Pizza Tonight? Make it a regular thing for comfort food?"

"She'd see through that!"

"Then let her, but she'll probably laugh."

"And if she doesn't laugh?"


"That wasn't funny, Tammy."

"In that case I'll have to show you how to do your own make-up, especially concealer and foundation although you might want to experiment with your eyes and lipstick as well!"

John had been drying his hands with a towel so that became a object of aggression. Tammy caught it and threw it back, giggling. John made a real effort to hit Tammy with it, damping the towel into a soggy lump.

"Here you go!"

The kitchen door opened and Joan walked straight into the projectile.


"I'm sorry Mrs Small, that was aimed at Tammy." Tammy, naturally, was creased up with laughter.

Joan turned and walked out.

"Oh dear, Tammy, I don't think we've heard the last of this?"

"Probably not, just remember that you started it!"

"Did not!"

The door opened again, Richard walked in.

"What is going on?"

"Sorry Dad, we were joking and things got out of hand. John threw it first, by the way."

"Don't play the blame game, Tammy, as it takes two to tango."

"Yes Dad." "Yes Mr Smart."

"Now, what time is dinner?"


Richard now left the kitchen. Tammy walked over to John and gave him a hug and a kiss. "Quits?"

"We weren't fighting, but yeah." He gave Tammy a kiss on the lips.

"Oh, I shouldn't have done that. Sorry, Tammy."

"What's there to be sorry about? Mind you, my shade of lipstick does suit you!"

John fled the kitchen.

Monday 13th April

"Welcome back Miss Tammy."

"Thank you Leanne, I understand you went away at Easter?"

"Yes Miss, I stayed with an aunt in Aberdeen for a few days."

Tammy decided to leave it there, "I'll be in the office if anyone needs me."

"Yes, Miss."

Tammy took a seat next to her PA. "Is there anything for me, Pru?"

"Yes, a draft contract arrived for the flat."

"Has my father seen it?"

"He has, I don't believe he has any problem with it, but I wonder why a London company is interested?"

"That's their registered office but the guys will actually live locally."

"You're not going to put this through an agency?"

"No, that would add to the number of people who knew about the arrangement."

"So, who is it really?"

"The National Crime Unit."

"The multi-agency lot?"


"What do they want it for?"

"Sorry Pru, you're not cleared for that. Let's just sign this and send it back, is my business account up and running?"

"Yes Tammy, Tamara Smart Property Ltd is the name of the account as you asked."

"Thanks, but I've had a thought and I'd like to establish a degree of distance between myself and the tenants."

"That would be difficult to achieve in practice as your name is against the Land Registry entry for the building and Caithness Council will have your name as well for business rates."

"Oh well, for the next properties can we establish a new company 'Thurso Property Services' and a bank account in the same name?"

"Sure, I'll get onto that this morning."

"Thanks, can you have the rental from the flat go to the new account?"

"If you can sign the contract I'll date it and fill in any other information."

"Great, is there anything else outstanding?"

"No, any personal mail was put in your room."

"I've seen it. I'm going into town if anyone wants me."

"Okay, bye."

Tammy met John outside the office, "ready?"

"Yes, we're expected."

Tammy parked behind Sarah's shop and walked to Sandy's salon with him. She was ushered straight into the torture chamber.

"Well, well, well, Miss Smart has decided she does need our services after all?"

"Come off it Joanne, I got back in town on Friday night and was busy on Saturday."

"Yes, I was in here when the fun happened out there," she jabbed her finger towards the wax room's door, "but I didn't need to see what was going on."

"It was a mis-understanding, typical Tanya really."

"Sandy had a right go at her when they got home, Debbie told me."

"I'm not surprised, she's being offered a job with free accommodation plus a husband who is clever and worth a few pennies, then she tried to throw the lot away in a fit of pique."

"It's not just that, she's lost a couple of babysitting jobs as word got around."

"Does she not know that she'll need to be checked before she can work with children or vulnerable people?"

"I've tried to tell her, I have had to get clearance* as I help with school productions, teaching stage make-up. If someone complained to the police about her being violent it could ruin her chances of work."

"Maybe she'll see sense?"

"I hope so. Now, get up on the table and slips your jeans off. I hate to say it, but you probably need a full service."

"Oh well."


Tammy walked back into the salon an hour later.

"We were going to send a search party for you."

"Joanne and I were talking, then she decided that I needed waxing everywhere." John blushed.

"Well, get in the chair, let's make you presentable. I hope you didn't let any of those southerners loose on your hair?"

"Not a chance."

"How was London?"

"I was only there for a few days, Sandy."

"So where were you?"


"That's eight hundred miles from here!"

"It took longer to get the train from Glasgow back here than it did to fly up from Cornwall."

"Why not fly into Wick?"

"I had an appointment in Glasgow and there's no flights from Glasgow to Wick."

"Right, sit back and let Sandy work her wonders. Tanya will do a full manicure and pedicure once I'm done."

It was nearly one o'clock when Tammy, Tanya and John walked into the Castletown Hotel for lunch. They were greated by the effervescent manager, Frances Ernesto.

"Miss Smart, so lovely to see you again!"

"Thank you Frances, can we have a table out of the way please?"


Tammy knew there was a secluded corner that included a table and three chairs, but it always had a reserved sign. Tammy had queried this with Frances, to be told he kept it for those customers who needed a little privacy, Today was one such time.

The Reserved sign was whisked away as they sat, Frances then dropped menus into their hands in a well-rehearsed manner.

Tammy's phone pinged, she was minded to just ignore it but took a look anyway, spotting that a secure message had arrived.

Russians connected to your former driving instructor now in Thurso. Be careful. Sophie

Tammy's face must have shown concern as John quickly and quietly asked what the problem was.

"I hope it's nothing, but some nasty people are apparently in town."

Tanya was concerned, "this isn't an exercise?"

"No, this is for real."

"Should we leave?"

"No, John, we're as safe here as anywhere. Let's hope nothing happens."

There was a noise from the far end of the lounge, near the main entrance, as three large individuals entered the hotel. Tammy quickly tapped a message.

In Castletown Hotel. Three Russian males just entered bar. Advice? Tammy."

She wasn't certain but could have sworn she heard one of the Russians say "Smart."


* The Scottish system for vetting those working with children/vulnerable adults is different from the rest of the UK and is simply called 'Disclosure' - http://www.disclosurescotland.co.uk/basicdisclosureonline/in...

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