Testing Times - Chapter 30 "Alarming"

Testing Times - A Tommy & Tamara Story  




Saturday 23rd May

The sleep-over bedroom arrangements had taken a few arguments to resolve, but they'd all drifted off to their allocated sleeping chamber sometime near 1am.

Tammy woke up with Tanya in her bed, whilst Jeri had slept with Angela and Helen was on her own.

"You snore!"

"I don't"

"I barely slept at all."

"You were fast asleep when I went to the loo an hour ago."

"I wondered what that cold feeling was."

There was a knock on the door, Leanne put two coffees on the dresser before heading to the other bedrooms.

"What's the time?"

"How would I know, it's your room and I can't see my phone anywhere."

Tammy focussed across the room, there was a small clock on her dresser. "Seven fifteen."

"Middle of the night then."

"Well, I won't wake you until after breakfast in that case. I'm usually in school by this time."

"How long until breakfast?"

"Fifteen mins, I'm going for a shower."

"Is there room for two"?

Tammy dashed into the bathroom and locked the door. She was just about to step under the running water when there was a bang on the door.

"Let me in, I need a wee!"

Somehow, the pair made it downstairs just after half seven.

"Remind me, Dad, why are we up this early?"

"You're expecting a car engineer around eight and I understand the sweeping team will be here this morning."

Tammy shrugged and went to fill a bowl with cereal. Helen still had trouble understanding the terminology in the Smart household. "Sweeping team? How many does it take to hold a broom?"

The others, Jeri included, giggled. "What, what, what's so funny?"

"Helen, it means a search for bugs and listening devices will be done."

"Why, are we being bugged?"

"I hope not, but this is precautionary."

"Oh, you wouldn't think my mother's up to something, would you?"

"Unlikely, but we should be careful just in case." Richard dropped his voice to just above a whisper, Helen replied likewise, "okay, I understand."

Tammy turned to Jeri, "you seemed to know what my Dad was talking about?"

"I'm a keen reader of espionage books, I might even write one myself about a group of sixth form spies in the Highlands."

"That would be so unbelievable!"

"Yeah, nothing ever happens in Thurso!"

Tammy blushed. She was saved by the sound of the front door bell, it was just before eight.

"Good morning Mr Smart, Miss Smart."

"Hello Jimmy, I'll open the gate so you can bring the vehicles in." Tammy closed the front door after collecting her keys from the study. She closed the gates behind the two Toyotas.

"Okay Mr Ruddle, who do we have here today and are they tea or coffee aficionados?"

"With me for the sweeping are Peter and Josie, they both take their coffee black. In the other vehicle is Yasmin and she likes apple tea, apparently it keeps her body pure."

Yasmin asked for the keys to Tammy's car and soon had the boot, bonnet, every door and inside panel open. Jimmy and his companions headed for the barn.

Tanya and Jeri had come out the back door. "I guess that rules out a swim?"

"Not quite Jeri, not if you want one?"

"I didn't get a swim yesterday. I don't have a swimsuit though."

"I bought you something yesterday, it was in the sport shop bag."

"Thanks, by the way did you only buy the one bra?"

"Yes, I wasn't sure if you would actually want it. If I had my car we could go shopping."

Tanya folded her arms. "You promised we would go to Wick."

"No I didn't, you just said I needed a guided shopping trip."

"And you agreed we'd do it today."

"I didn't know my car would be dismantled?" The rear seats were now out on the gravel. Tammy tried to make sense of it.

"Yasmin, what are you doing?"

Yasmin looked like her blonde hair was out of a bottle, she was in coveralls which obscured any idea of her body but at six foot tall, in flats, was anything but diminutive.

"I'm upgrading the existing cameras and adding steerable high resolution cameras to the front and rear. Under the seats will be storage for the video and a satellite uplink is going on the roof."

"Okay, so it won't cost me anything on my mobile data?"

"No, not now."

"Anything else?"

"I'll install a secondary battery and your alarm system will be upgraded."

"Fine, but you know the car belongs to me and not to any agency."


Yasmin's head went back into one of the car's orifices and Tammy decided it was a waste of time asking for a time-scale.

"So, Tanya, we're going nowhere before lunchtime."

"Okay, no pool, no gym, no car and I bet the studio's out of action too?"

Tammy nodded.

"What about Elsie's pool?"

"She's away."

"Well, ask!"

Tammy put her head into the kitchen and found Leanne.

"Can you ask if Mrs McPherson's pool is available?"

"It is, Miss. I was going to use it at lunchtime when I finish, I don't mind going there another day, Miss."

"No, Leanne, you can still use it as you planned, we'll be back here by lunchtime."

"I'll have Thomas leave you towels, I'll clear everything away."

"Thank you Leanne."

Tammy gathered the girls and instructed them to change into swimwear. She chose her new black bikini which matched Jeri's. Tanya begged a bikini as her's was in a washing machine somewhere.

The giggling girls took two golf carts over to Elsie's and could see that Thomas, the butler, was unimpressed with the noise before they'd even got through the door.

The pool was shimmering in the subdued light although that was ruined by five girls throwing themselves into the water. Any idea of continuing Helen's swimming lessons was pointless.

They took clean clothes so showered and dressed before returning, leaving their soaking swimsuits for Leanne as suggested. By half eleven they were back at Dunbankin'.

Tammy's car was closed up and in the same spot she'd left it the previous morning, there was no sign of Yasmin or the mechanic's vehicle. Jimmy Ruddle was heading back to his Toyota when Tammy intercepted him.

"Where next?"

"Mrs McPherson's study and drawing room need checking, and then we're visiting the cottage in the grounds of St Andrews."

"Oh, why that?"

"We understand that you may become a regular visitor there in the autumn so we'll upgrade the security and give it a look over. We'll have to go there again in the autumn but that can be done when there's another job up here."

Lunch was next on the agenda but Tanya had other ideas. "We'll get lunch out."

"Okay, but Jeri needs a new wardrobe and that's more important than my shopping."

"And I thought it would just be the two of us, bah!" Tanya laughed, "okay, three of us. We can try this super charged secret service car of yours."

"Tanya! Keep your voice down."

"Sorry, Richard, I'm just having a laugh."

"If you say that at the wrong time in the wrong place, it would not be a laugh, so don't say it at all. You're privileged to know some of Tammy's extra-curricula activities but that does not mean you can broadcast them."

"Yeah, sorry."

Richard turned to Tammy. "Could you take a look at today's Scotsman before you leave for Wick?"

Tanya went to find Jeri and make sure she would pass muster in Wick while Tammy sat in the lounge with the newspaper.

The top story was Veronica Salmond's dismissal from the Scottish Democracy Party. Veronica had been suspended the morning after being arrested in London and was due in front of a hearing next week to determine her future.

The previous day, the paper reported, the Party's Executive had dismissed her as Veronica had given her allegiance to a separatist group, the Scottish Radicals. Parliament had similarly suspended Veronica two weeks earlier and would now vote on Monday to remove her as an MP, forcing a by-election in the constituency.

Tammy had just finished reading the article when Richard joined her in the study.

"Dad, what about the money she owes you?"

"Owes us, it's your firm too!"

"Okay, okay."

"I've told Mr Smith to make an application to the Sheriff's Court for payment of the £8000."

"How will that be achieved?"

"Her house is under control of the High Court, so the Sheriff will probably order that when the house is sold, we get our money direct from the court."

"Is Helen's money safe?"

"Yes, she has access to a few thousand in cash and the rest is secured."

"What's Elsie really doing?"

"Tidying up Roland McPherson's affairs, she's going to Geneva first then flying to the Far East before an excursion to the Caribbean."

"So Austria is a ruse."

"Yes, unfortunately there will be tax to pay when any of the funds are transferred back to the UK but Helen will have a secured future. No word of this to her, please, let Elsie handle it on her return."

"Sure, Dad."

Tammy left her father in the study and rejoined the others, by midday all five were on the way to Wick.

Jeri had complained she didn't have access to much money but had been surprised by Joan when she handed over £200.

"What's this for?"

"You saved Dr Meier's life, that is a thank you from his daughter. He'll be released from hospital after the weekend and is taking retirement."

Jeri had borrowed a bag, but knew she needed to get one. She was in a knee length skirt and a gypsy top on this warm day and had allowed Tanya to put make-up on her for the first time. Tammy had offered a pair of nude tights to hide the blemishes, but Jeri turned down the offer.

"The flare up is over, you can't see anything." Her smile was infectious.

Tammy parked in the large Tesco carpark, some way from the entrance. The five climbed out, but Jeri wasn't comfortable. "What if someone sees me?"

"Jeri, how many St Andrews boys will be over here?"

"What about teachers, Tammy?"

"How long before they have to know anyway? You'll have to talk to Joan about school."

"No, I can't."

"Yes, you can. I did."

The others had walked away, towards the store entrance, while Jeri and Tammy remained by the car.

"You're leaving the school soon, I have another year there."

"Tanya will be there."

"She's doing her Highers now, why should she go to St Andrews?"

"She'll be Mrs Small's deputy, looking after the girls."

"Oh, I hadn't heard that."

"It's not official and she still has to be interviewed."

"What do I tell my mum?"

"The truth, if necessary we'll fly her up here so she can see you."

"She's off next week as my sister's off school."

"How old is she?"

"Claire's Fifteen."

"Look, let's catch the others up."

"Why are we here?"

"Some simple knickers, bras and whatever is in the sale."


Jeri spent just £50 there but seemed pleased with her haul, for that amount she added four bras, ten pairs of knickers and two tops. The other girls picked at the bargain rails and added to their clothing stock, although Tammy suggested some of those purchases may end up with Jeri.

As they reached the car a helicopter came over, Wick Airport was next to the store. The chopper hovered, so all the girls and most of the carpark looked up. Tammy recognised the pilot and gave him a wave.

"Do you know him, Tammy?"

"Yes, Helen."

"Anything we should know?"

Tanya and Angela sniggered. "Yeah, I own the company."

Helen shook her head, "I do know when I'm being wound up!"

"Did you notice the company name?"

"Mc something."

"McPherson Helicopters, owned by Elsie, my Dad and me."

"Can I have a ride?"

"Maybe, when your mum pays Dad back for her ride two weeks ago!"

"Hey, I'm not paying her bill!"

"It's being dealt with, you'll get a trip when you need one, but the helicopters are too busy for joy rides."

Tammy drove them to the carpark of the MacKay Hotel, by the Wick River, and guided the gang into the lounge bar. It was around one so lunchtime was upon them. Jeri flinched when she saw the prices in the menu but was told not to worry.

Tanya wanted a glass of wine but Tammy wasn't keen,.

"Look, this is a pit-stop and we've got more to do. I'm driving so can't have a drop anyway."

"Apart from shopping, what do we need to do?"

"Jeri needs a haircut."

All heads turned, "do I?"

"No, Tammy, we'll not do that here." Tanya pulled out her phone and called her mother.

"Right, ten o'clock on Monday. The full package, Joanne's looking forward to meeting Jeri."

"Who's Joanne?" Jeri sounded worried.

"She's a lovely lady, all the girls go to see her." Angela & Tammy nodded, Helen winced.


After lunch, two hours of window shopping ensued. Jeri tried on frocks, skirts, capris, and everything else that was handed to her. Her final £5 went on a small shoulder bag.

"I'm out of cash, I'll ask mum for some more but it won't be sent before Monday as she doesn't like online banking."

"Jeri, why don't we get your mum and sister up here for a few days?"

"Where will they stay?"

"We'll work on that." Tammy took her phone and called Joan, as she'd have the necessary contact details.

They walked back to the hotel carpark armed with shopping bags, satisfied with themselves.

A police car was parked next to her Mini Cooper, a familiar rogue was in the back.

"Officer, was he trying to break into my car?"

"We suspect so, what's your name, Miss?"

"Tamara Smart, I'm glad you came across him."

"We were a few miles away when control received a call, so you should thank whoever called. Do you recognise him?"

"Yes, James Dougall, he was arrested trying to rob me in Thurso in December."

"Thank you, how long have you had the car?"

"Since Easter, I doubt he'd know it was mine."

"Okay, we'll be in touch but you might want to have the passenger door checked."

"Will do."

Tammy couldn't see anything but all the other girls insisted on checking too. She docked her phone, it wasn't long before Hilary called.

"Hi Tammy, how many of you in there?"

"Five, but why did you need to ask?"

Hilary laughed, "Yasmin will meet you when you get home, just to check it over."


The call ended before Helen asked "Tammy, is that the same Hilary?"

"Yes, the same one who helped you."

"So, how did she know about the guy breaking in?"

"The new security system connects to her office, that's what Yasmin was doing this morning."


When they got back Richard was setting up the grill for another attempt at cremating all food that came near it. He'd been partially successful in that regard the previous evening but Julie had assisted by cooking extra in the kitchen.

"Okay, girls. I could do with a hand getting everything ready. Jeri, your mum will be here tomorrow."

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