Testing Times - Chapter 14 "Driven To Distraction"

Testing Times - A Tommy & Tamara Story  



"Driven To Distraction"

Monday 27th April

"How was school, Tammy?"

"It was okay Dad, but I was only there for an hour or so."

"Where's Angela?"

"I left her there, she wanted to work in the library."

"Okay, Pru has a message for you and I'll be outside with the contractors."

"I'll grab a coffee first."

A few minutes later Tammy let herself into the office.

"Hi Tammy, I took a call for you."

"On the secure phone?"

"Yes, but it's not one of the names I recognised, she said her name was Miss Bull from Caithness Marine Research, can she see you at the flat on Thursday?"

"Okay, Dave Brown is due in town on Thursday or Friday so it's probably connected to his visit, can you call her back?"

"She said she wouldn't be at that number for a few days and couldn't give me a mobile number."

"Oh, I guess that means we're stuck."

"Yes, sorry."

"It's not your fault, Pru. Is there anything else?"

"Elsie McPherson has confirmed Dave Brown arrives Thursday afternoon and has tickets for the opening night."

"Did you book tickets for mum and dad?"

"Yes, the Friday evening performance as well. I hear that first night nerves can be awful."

Tammy giggled, "it was a memorable opening night last time, that's for certain, I'm hoping for a quiet evening this time!"

"I read about it."

"So did most people in the Highlands, so much for keeping a low profile."

"Oh, did you want me to book your flights for when you finish school?"

"Not yet, as things stand I have no idea what's happening here, let alone London or Cornwall."


There was a loud noise outside, Tammy quickly left the office and looked out the rear as a waste skip was being dropped alarmingly close to her car.


"Yes Dad?"

"Get your keys, I suggest we park by the tool store for now?"

She made her way up to her room once her Mini was in a safer position and settled down with the set book One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich. Every time she read it new phrases and emotions were evident in the words, carrying Tammy off to Solzhenitsyn's gulag. She didn't hear her bedroom door open.

"I've just had Gerald on the phone."

"Oh Dad, was it the court case?"

"Yes, your mother was in court for a sentencing hearing this morning."

Tara Smart, now Tara Simpson, had been arrested in London with an Albanian fraudster and terrorist the previous December.


"She had pleaded guilty to being an accessory to fraud and was given a suspended sentence of five years plus a fine of £10,000. The other charges were dropped."

"So she doesn't go to prison?"

"If she commits anther offence then prison is likely but otherwise, no."

"What about the fine?"

"Gerald and I made provision for that and withheld it from the divorce settlement, although we did allow for up to £50,000."

"What did her solicitor say?"

"Not much, he barely said a word during the hearing as far as I'm aware."

"What's she doing now?"

"That's where it gets difficult, the main trial isn't until late July so the others are not going to be pleased with her. I'd like to think she can keep her head down but that's not her style."

"Where is she?"

"She's been moved from her flat and Gerald doesn't know where she's gone."

"I guess she can't come here?"

"That would be awkward, Tammy, plus wouldn't they actually look for her here first?"

"I guess so."

"It does mean that we'll have to look at your personal security again, all of ours for that matter."

"Should I talk to Dave Brown about that?"

"That maybe a good idea, but we'll have to look at security here as well. Wait until he's up here later in the week."

Looking out of her window Tammy could see work starting on multiple fronts.

"Can we trust the workmen, Dad?"

"I hope so, I didn't want to do a local firm out of business but I brought the builders in from Aberdeen as they have a track record in pools and conversions. I told their MD I wanted it done discretely as otherwise our neighbour could complain! The turfers come from Inverness and should have the lawn done today."

"Did they know of Elsie?"

"No, but I gave the guy a wonderful description and offered a bonus for finishing without a single complaint."

"Good idea, but what about that skip?"

"That's a different firm unfortunately and there's no quiet way to deal with a steel skip."

"They'll still have to excavate the barn floor for the pool?"

"It's not that thick, just four inches of steel reinforced concrete on gravel, it'll break up easily."

"Would that have been strong enough for the farm machinery?"

"Most of the farmland was sold off twenty years ago and I bet the barn hasn't been in agricultural use for thirty, if not longer. George Doherty said the floor was relaid about ten years ago when the flat and studio conversion was done."

"Sounds good, when's lunch?"


Tammy returned to her work but was mindful that there was a limit to how much revision was beneficial. She had another two weeks before her first exam and didn't want to wear herself out, or get wound up, before the exams started.

A welcome break came mid afternoon.

"Tammy, Joan's got a meeting after school so could you pick up Angela?"


Tammy left her car outside the main entrance and headed for the library. Several of the sixth form were working in there, judging by the books it was a history revision group.

Angela told Tammy that John wanted to see her. It seemed she'd missed him in the library by a few minutes to tried the common room, having missed him by seconds apparently. Without thinking Tammy went into the accommodation wing and up to the sixth form rooms on the top floor. She knocked on his door.

"Hi Tammy, I was just coming back down to see you."

"John, I'm not sure it's appropriate for me to be here."

"I trust you, and I'd hope you trust me, although I don't remember there being any rule about students in each-others' dorms."

"I'm pretty sure that's not what you wanted to ask?"

"No, my Dad has sent me money to buy a car but I need to go have a look."

"So you'd like me to take you?"

"Yes, please."



"Straight after breakfast?"

"That's excellent."

"Just the two of us?"

"Sure, I want to surprise Tanya."

"That suits me."

"Also, can we do a maths paper together?"

"Wednesday? We've got workmen in so it might be easier to study here?"

"Sounds like a plan."

Tammy gave John a peck on the cheek before walking back down to the library. "Ready, Angela?"

Tuesday 28th April

Tammy decided to leave the house before any of the contractors arrived. She'd now discovered that although the firm was from Aberdeen they were staying in town to avoid the lousy drive each morning and evening, they were due at the house at eight, Tammy was in the refectory half an hour before that.

"John, I was told the interviews last week were originally planned for the Friday but were moved onto Thursday as the Head was busy, any idea what it was?"

"The rumour is that he had to attend a meeting with one or more of the teachers unions."

"That doesn't sound too bad?"

"The thing is, it could have something to do with the recent death of a teacher, a resignation, a sacking or the plan for female boarding students? You can't speculate."

"I guess not, I suppose we would be told if it was relevant?"

"Yes, let's get some food."

John had a list of car dealers and the stock they held and had scribbled notes against several of the cars.

"My dad gave me as much advice as he could over the phone but told me I had to sort out my own mistakes."

"Yeah, but buying a car for the first time is not a subject covered in school."

"But hot-wiring is covered in some schools!"

Their first dealer was in Wick, arriving just after eight forty-five, a sign said it was open from nine . They'd managed a decent walk around the open plot before a salesman approached, not really convinced that any car met John's needs and budget. They were stood at the time next to a three year old European standard hatchback, made in some Eastern state.

"Nice car, Mr ......."


"It's had one careful owner, low mileage, great for fuel economy and is low insurance too. Are you looking for something simple for the girlfriend?"

Tammy snorted.

"She's not my girlfriend. Come on Tammy."

She climbed back into her Mini Cooper and executed a quick exit from the place.

"Blimey Tammy, how did he make that assumption?"

"John, don't be naive, people see what looks like a couple. Did you see him check my fingers for rings? At least he didn't accuse me of being your wife."

"Now that really would be funny."

Tammy shut up, she had a soft spot for John but wouldn't get in the way of Tanya. Did this mean she would accept a relationship with a boy, a man?

"Slow down!"

Tammy eased her foot off the throttle. "Sorry, I was distracted. Where are we going?"

"Out towards the airport for the next one."

They were again left to wander around the cars but Tammy noted they had been spotted when she got out of the car. After twenty minutes John had picked out a couple of possibilities, with Tammy's input. They walked back towards the office.

"Hello, how can I help you?"

"I need a car, I'm just finishing school and it has to get me to work in Inverness or Aberdeen even in the snow." Tammy decided to wander away, but stayed within earshot.

"What caught your eye?"

John walked over to the nearest vehicle that was on his short list and examined the pros and cons, he was getting comfortable speaking to this dealer. One factor that was oft quoted was the nought to sixty time. By the time they'd moved the the third, and final, short-listed vehicle John was snared. He'd so far resisted telling the guy his top limit but Tammy knew he would have to supplement his father's gift. The final straw was when John was led to a car that was substantially over his limit and John was almost ready to buy it.

Tammy walked over, "John, dear, your fiancée will get suspicious if you spend too long away."

"What, Tammy?"

Turning to the salesman, Tammy apologised then pulled John a safe distance away.

"Can't you see what he was doing?"

"I can afford it."

"John, you're about to setup a home almost from scratch; the pair of you will need new clothes, household items, furniture, supplies, and there will be bills for heating, lighting, telephone etc. If you blow all of your savings on the car you'll not be able to afford any of that." She didn't say that Tanya, or her mother, could not afford to put much in.


"Tell the guy we've got a few more to see and that we'll be back. I'll wait here."

The dealer looked disappointed but Tammy guessed this was part of the act. One or two of the cars would have been adequate for John's needs and were a good price, so they might be back, maybe.

Tammy drove the pair back into Thurso and went to a small dealership in an industrial zone to the south of the town. There were ten or so cars here and none were on John's list.

The dealer explained. "Most of my stock is only here for twenty four hours, just enough time to clean them, check them and put a price on them. Did you want a price for the Cooper?"

"No thanks, I like it."

"I've seen you around town in it. Now, how can I help you?"

John explained his needs.

"I see, most of the time you'll just be travelling locally - so I guess economy is preferable to top speed?" John nodded. "Have you considered automatic or manual?"

"I learnt in a manual."

"With the icy roads you might be better in a manual. What do you think?" He turned to Tammy.

"I had advanced training in a manual before I took my test, I just haven't tried it out in my Mini yet. I'm only a friend, by the way."

"There's no such thing as only a friend, I suspect you're the more experienced driver by some way so this young man could do with your help." he paused. "If I don't think there's a car here that suits your needs, I won't sell you a car, any car. It may be that I will get a car in tomorrow that meets your requirements and price range in which case I'll call you straight away. Now, let's have a look at what's here."

They left half an hour later empty handed but feeling happier, Tammy drove John back to school, arriving shortly before eleven. As she pulled up in the rear carpark her phone pinged.

Do you have an explanation for spending the morning with my man!

Ask him, but can you wait for a day or two - it's a surprise?

"John, you'll have to say something to her - I don't want another incident!"

"Neither do I. I'll handle Tanya."

"Okay, I need a coffee."

"Aren't you going home?"

"They're digging a hole in the barn about 50m from my window, I won't get any work done."

"We've got time to do that test paper then, if we use my room I can make you a latté?"

"Okay, so long as Tanya's spies don't find out!"

They finished the ninety minute paper with a few minutes to spare. As they left John's room they were seen by James Hunter.

"Oh, look what we have here?"

Tammy laughed, "you can't intimidate me!"

"I bet John's girlfriend would like to hear about this?" John meanwhile was going red.

"James, if Tanya knew you were spreading false rumours we'd probably find you hung, drawn and quartered using a pair of curling tongs and thinning scissors."

Tammy linked her arm with John and pulled him towards the refectory.

"I'm dead meat, Tammy."

"No you're not, he'll get over it."

"A week ago you wouldn't go to my room on your own and now we've spent an hour and a half in there. What changed?"

"We believe that there's nothing in the school rules preventing two students being together in a dorm plus yesterday you said we can both trust each-other, can't we?"

"Yes, Tammy."

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