Testing Times - Chapter 16 "Photo evidence"

Testing Times - A Tommy & Tamara Story  



"Photo evidence"

Thursday 30th April

"Good morning Tammy, Mr Smart."

Tammy and her father had just arrived at the Castletown Hotel for a meeting with Hilary Bull, finding her in a secluded corner of the lounge. They waited until the barman had brought their coffees before Richard felt comfortable exchanging more than just pleasantries.

"Miss Bull, could you please tell me how you know of us?"

"Mr Smart, I have been aware of your family for the past six months, including all the nastier business in Thurso and London. Please don't ask me to be too specific in a public environment."

"Okay, so what's your connection to Caithness Marine Research?"

"I'm on the Board and have been appointed as the Operations Director."

"Who are the other directors?"

"Mr Brown, Mr Meach and Mr Edmunds all of whom you've met." Tammy realised this meant the intelligence services, police and HM Customs were all involved.

"Who is the chairman?"

"Miss Osborne."

"I don't know a Miss Osborne, Miss Bull."

"Your daughter may, Mr Smart, she's Heather Young's manager."

"Jenny? How is Heather? I haven't spoken to her for a week or so." All Tammy knew was that Heather had gone into hospital, nothing more.

"I don't have an update, Tammy, but you're due to see her in June and that should go ahead as planned."

Richard decided he needed more, even if Hilary's bona-fides seemed to have been established.

"What is the nature of the business and how will it benefit my daughter's education?"

"It's maritime-based research work for our clients. Tammy may be asked to undertake some research or help me with the company. It will be a part time salaried role and will be tailored to fit into her formal studies."

They paused as coffees were sipped.

"What's the renummeration, Miss Bull?"

"£35,000 pa pro-rata initially, plus benefits."


"We'll draw that up, it'll be a week or so before it's ready."

"I see, how long before the centre is operational?"

"I'm here to get it off the ground, which primarily means kitting out the offices but one key aspect is getting the name known. Mr Brown and Mr Meach are old boys of St Andrews so will be helping with connecting us to their contacts. Obviously, once Tammy's name and the school have been associated with the company we can use that to good effect, I feel it will work well for all of us. Subject to a site meeting tomorrow, the contractors will start the refurbishment on Monday. I've allowed two weeks for us to be fully operational."

"I hope you are aware, Miss Bull, that my exams start in two weeks?"

"I am, but please call me Hilary. You won't be asked to become involved in any live project work until you return from Cornwall."

"So what could I do? I will have down time from exams and revision."

"Training mostly, plus helping me set up the office."

Richard needed to know a little more, "You haven't really told us Miss Bull, what the actual work will be?"

"As the name implies, Mr Smart, the main function is maritime research, driven by the requirements of our clients. Some clients will be commercial, requiring surveys and location investigations, some will be government." She let it hang there.

Tammy's phone beeped.

Car dealer just called, there's a car available. Do you forgive me?

Tammy tapped a response to John.

I guess you would like some transport?

Yes please, when can you pick me up?

"Sorry Hilary, but my friend needs some help, he's the one you met yesterday."

"Mr Hibbert?"

"Yes, Dad, can you run me home so I can get my car?"

"Sure, I think we're done."

"Tammy, before you go, can we meet at three tomorrow at the research centre?"

"Research centre?"

"That will be the official name of the office."

"Okay, I should be done at the school by then."


"Tammy, I went to apologise to Gerry Anders at breakfast but he won't talk to me."

"I'm not surprised, John, you did charge right in, just as I was getting through to him."

"There's a rumour that he's another one, like you, Angela and Lori."

"Let me guess, James Hunter told you?"

"Yes, how did you know?"

"He started it. Do you know where Gerry is?"

"He should be in class, morning break finished ten minutes ago, although I don't know his timetable. Can we get going?"

"Sure, but I want to see Joan, Mrs Small, first."

"I'd best come along."

Joan was, unsually, available.

"I've fifteen minutes before my next appointment, I'd guess this isn't a social call?"

"No, Mum."


"It's only John, not some strange boy?"

"Hmmm, even so. What's the problem?"

Tammy explained what she'd been told by Gerry Lancer. John completed the story by including what he'd heard that morning. Tammy summed up the situation.

"I'm not convinced this is any more than a genuine mistake compounded by bullying."

"I see, thank you both for telling me. The young man is currently in his dorm claiming to be unwell, I think I'll pay a house call if he doesn't come down for lunch. I'll have to inform Mr Thompson, however, with what you've told me."

Joan dismissed the pair, stating that her next appointment was imminent.

"Tammy I didn't know any of that."

"John, I'm not going to repeat myself, but you have to restrain yourself. If you want to go into the legal business that kind of behaviour will make it a very short career.

They'd reached the school secretary's office, on their way to the rear carpark.

"Miss Smart, could you come into my office?"

John followed Tammy, sensibly closing the door behind him.

"What is it Janet?"

"The contractors are in your old room at the moment, come and see me after breakfast tomorrow for the key."

"Okay, I'm planning on behing here early."

"I'm told you'll be needed by wardrobe and make-up at nine."


"Make-up? Wardrobe?" John seemed confused, but Tammy just accepted the information.

"Yes Mr Hibbert, that's what I've been told. It's possible you'll be needed as well so please wash your hair tonight or early tomorrow."

"Err, fine."

Tammy and John finally made it to the rear carpark, it was a ten minute drive to the car dealership.

"Good morning, Mr Hibbert."

"Hello, what do you have for me?"

The dealer suggested the pair followed him.

"This is a Vauxhall Meriva Breeze that arrived here yesterday afternoon. It's three years old with an MOT certificate that's valid until Easter next year."

He gave John a sheet that contained all the specifications.

"As you can see, it's economical with fuel and is fully equipped. It should be suitable for running around town, or heading into Inverness or even further afield. At five thousand pounds it's a bargain. Do you want a test drive?"

John did, but Tammy opted to wait for them to return. Her phone pinged from her bag.

I can't get hold of John and he's not at school?"

Tammy needed to be careful.

He's with me but is busy right now, where are you?

Are you revising?

No, but it's to do with your surprise.

Not fair, when will I be told?

Where will you be in an hour?

I'm coming out of school at twelve thirty then walking into town.

Wait by the school carpark.


John and the car dealer returned from their quick test drive twenty minutes later.

"There you go John, I'll give you some time to think about it."

He walked away.

"Tammy, what's your thoughts?"

"It's bright red so you won't have trouble finding it!"

"Thanks, not! Look, do you think Tanya will like it?"

"You need to ask her that question; you will be driving it and it's up to her whether or not she gets in."

"I suppose so."

"I'm sorry to be harsh John, but until she learns to drive you'll end up as a taxi service. If she doesn't like red cars, for example, then she can walk! I had the same trouble before I passed my test, having to rely on others. I couldn't be overly choosy."

"Okay, okay, what about the car?"

"It looks clean, I suggest you ask for the logbook and the service history. What would you do about insurance?"

"Dad told me to ring this guy he uses and it'll be insured straight away."

"That's useful, off you go! I'll wait by my car."

It was another twenty minutes before the formalities had been completed and John was handed the key. Tammy saw him shake the dealer's hand before walking over to where Tammy was waiting.

"Well, thanks."

"Do you know your way around the area yet? We've got somewhere to go first."

"We do?"

"Yes, Thurso High School."


"Follow me."

They pulled out onto the road, John following Tammy. She was painfully aware that John was a very inexperienced driver, not that she had much road time herself as yet. She deliberately maintained 27mph in the 30mph limit, ensuring that John wouldn't accidentally speed. Once through the centre of town she indicated to pull into the High School's carpark. John was plainly concentrating on following rather than paying attention to where he had just arrived, although he fortunately did manage to pull up before running into the back of Tammy's parked car.

Tanya walked over as John exited the car, Tammy decided to leave the pair to themselves, making a quick exit. John would have to be responsible for his own actions now.

As she arrived at Dunbankin' the lawn contractors were leaving, having also installed low-level path lighting and a few raised beds. It looked good, but it meant Tammy had to wait on the road for a minute before the contractor's vehicles had left.

Once into the paddock at the rear of the house, Tammy parked up. Work was progressing on the swimming pool in the barn but all that had really happened was they had finished digging up the floor. One side of the barn was also exposed, open to the elements. A glass wall would go here so that artificial lighting could be kept to a minimum. Several deliveries had arrived during the morning and these were covered in plastic sheeting.

Tammy was met by Leanne as she came inside.

"Will you need lunch, Miss Tammy?"

"Please, Leanne, could I have it in my room? I need to do some revision."

Friday 1st May

Tammy drove into school at seven fifteen, Angela however had refused to get out of bed; Tammy wasn't sure if she'd even be up in time to get a ride with her mother just before eight.

John was at the school office talking to Mrs Adams, the school secretary. Any student vehicles had to be registered with the office so any cars on site could be identified. Tammy noted how smart he looked.

"Sandy insisted I had a haircut."

"Okay, what did Tanya say about the car?"

"She complained you were there to choose it, not her."

"Ruddy cheek, you wouldn't have got to any of the car dealers without my help."

"I know that, Tammy, but try explaining it to my hormonal fiancée!"

There was a stilted laugh behind them, turning around they found the Headmaster.

"Sorry, Sir."

"Please mind your language around the students, Mr Hibbert, and the staff for that matter. Some are very sensitive."

The pair laughed, it did at times seem that many of the masters had no real experience of life outside of this institution; references to modern media, recent history and technology seemed to pass them by.

John had now been handed his parking permit and went to his car to attach it. Janet Adams passed a brown envelope to Tammy and asked her to sign a receipt slip.

"My old dorm key?"

"No Tammy, the lock has been replaced in case anyone had a spare key."

"Sensible" Tammy headed for breakfast.

As it was Friday, all of the upper sixth formers, whether boarders or day students, were expected to be in the school this morning. At breakfast, however, there were some notable absences. Apart from Angela, Lori and rry were missing, although Lori now lived in town and would probably arrive by bus after eight. James Hunter was also missing, Tammy couldn't think of a reason immediately.

The Head, who was now at the top table, stood to make an announcement.

"It gives me no pleasure to remind you all that bullying has no place in this school. One boy has been told he is lucky we have allowed him to sit his Highers here, but he'll have to find other accommodation."

The Head paused. "I should also remind you that any student who is concerned, can speak to Mrs Small or any of the masters in confidence."

He paused again. "We will have visitors in school today including a photographer. That's all."

He sat, allowing the room to erupt with speculation. The sixth form table had all guessed the same name, but some of the talk was new to Tammy.

"He was doing what?"

"Tammy, he was extorting money from the lower sixth, making up stories when they wouldn't cough up."

"When did this start?"

"Just after Christmas, his father stopped sending him his allowance, apparently there are some troubles at home."

"Another one?"

"Oh, it's not divorce yet, the rumour is that is father is being investigated by the Finicial Conduct Authroity for dodgy money advice."

"The FCA? Oh dear. Where is James now?"

"We heard he went to the station yesterday lunchtime. He was a bit pissed yesterday morning when the Head announced that your old dorm was being re-designated a female room until the end of term, the Head then called him into his study as soon as breakfast was over."

"Damn, I'll never collect that wager now."

Tammy excused herself to freshen up before going anywhere else. She'd deliberately not worn any make-up this morning but had a full make-up bag with her. She let the secretary know she would be in the common room, heading there for a coffee.

By eight thirty almost all the sixth formers passed through the common room, many of their way to the morning assembly. Gerry Lancer arrived when the room was almost clear. He wasn't expecting to see Tammy and wasn't pleased to see John who followed him into the room.

"Sit down Gerry, I looked for you at breakfast."

"I wasn't hungry, Tammy. I think I'll just go back to my room."

"Please stay, we only have a few minutes before we have to report downstairs. I understand James has been suspended?"

"Yes, but I don't want the blame for that, it was bad enough already."

John intervened, "I'm sorry Gerry, what I said to you was inappropriate. It does appear though that other boys had problems with James so it wasn't down to any one person."

"I accept your apology John, I understand the pair of you were responsible for Mrs Small's visit."

Tammy nodded, "we were concerned."

"I was thinking about asking my parents to remove me from the school."

"That would be a bit drastic."

"This wasn't the first thing that James has said, or done, he's been like it for months."

"Why did you not have your door closed when opening your case after Easter?"

"James was stood in the doorway and refused to leave. If I'd had any cake, chocolate or similar he would have taken it."

"So seeing the vest was just ammunition to him?"

"Yes, my little sister has apologised to me for the trouble she's caused; it was one of her old vests."

"I see."

The common room phone rang, John answered it.

"Come on Tammy, we're needed."

Tammy went over to Gerry and took his hand. "Please don't try to ignore any bullying, let us or Mrs Small know about it." She gave him a kiss on the cheek before grabbing her bag.

They were ushered into the conference room by the school secretary. Two people were already in the room.


"Hi Tammy, John. This is Chris Cutter, he'll be taking the photos, I'll just do your faces."

"I don't need any make-up!" John was becoming concerned.

"Yes you do John, consider it an acting role. You'll have plenty of paint on you tonight."

The photographer coughed, "I take it you three are acquainted. Can we make a start? I'd like to setup my lights but I need a key to the female dormitory and some directions."

Tammy gave John the key and sent him off with the photographer.

"Right Tammy, we have some clothes for you." Tammy hadn't notied the clothing rail at the back of the room. "Could you put the uniform on, please?"

The uniform in question was a knee length tartan skirt, white socks, blouse and the school blazer. The blazer looked different.

"It's been cut for a female shape, your size of course."

"Sixth formers don't wear uniforms."

"I'm aware of that, but the brief included some with you looking like you were sixteen, so we'll start like that, get changed."

The next few hours, right up until lunchtime, were spent with periods of tedium following by a rush to change into another outfit. Tammy wasn't just photographed inside her recently redecorated room but also in the corridor outside, then all over te school. Tammy was not impressed with the tennis outfit.

"Nobody mentioned this!"

John was also in tennis whites, although he was wearing shorts., as they headed out to the courts. Normally the courts wouldn't be available until after the Whitsun break so the groundsmen had been asked at short notice to have one court ready.

"At least I wasn't pictured in a bikini."

"We did ask the Head about using the pool but he said the pool would be in use." Chris Cutter sounded disappointed.

Tammy wasn't convinced, just grateful Dr McIntosh had blocked it.

"Anyway, we're done for the day. There will be a bit more on Tuesday."

Tammy heard the lunchtime bell ring inside, "come on John, we don't have time to change."

The pair made their way to the refectory and received a few stares from the mass of students already there. Angela and Lori had made it into school and hadn't known about the photo session.

"Blimey you two!" Angela snapped a pic.

Don't ask!"

Once lunch was over, they made their way to the conference room, finding it empty.

"Janet, where's my clothes?"

"I'm not sure, I've been into town. Your door key was on my desk though."

John had changed into his tennis kit in his room so the pair walked to the dorm, passing many students and a few masters. Once they reached their rooms, John let himself in and closed the door behind him. Tammy let herself into her room, finding her handbag on the desk and all of the days clothes in the wardrobe. A packet of make-up wipes were on the vanity in the bathroom.

"Thank you Joanne." Tammy uttered thanks to the absent torturess. There was a note with the wipes:

Your legs need attention, see me next week.

Tammy groaned, "great!"

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