Testing Times - Chapter 37 "Confidence Knocked"

Testing Times - A Tommy & Tamara Story  

Thirty Seven


"Confidence Knocked"

Friday 5th June (Continued)

Any conversation in the car stopped as Tammy phoned Joan back.

"What's going on, mum?" Tammy was almost in tears.

"They've moved her out of ICU onto a female surgical ward. She's now allowed visitors."

"All three girls were now crying, "mum that's the best news today."

"Get there safely please."

It was only a ten minute drive to the Raigmore, although Tammy must have hit every red light along the way. Once parked they made their was up to ward 6A. They were surprised to find Ryan Jenkins, Lori's younger brother, loitering outside the ward.

"Oh, it's Tammy Smart. Well, I'm not at that poncy school any more."

"Ryan, we're here to see your sister, not to have an argument."

"Yeah, yeah, anyway who are you?" He jabbed a finger towards Jeri.

"A girl you don't know."

"Another boy in a frock?"

She shrugged, "believe what you want to." Tammy suggested they continued to the nursing station.

"Good afternoon, I believe Lori Jenkins is on this ward?"

"Yes, her mother's in with her at the moment, no more than two visitors please and I can only allow you fifteen minutes." Tammy was elected to follow the nurse to a single bed unit, the other two walked back towards the ward entrance.

"Hello, I'm Tammy."

"Call me Tina. Did Mrs Small call you?"

"Yes, how is Lori?"

"Asleep at the moment, she's still very weak." Tammy could see a nasal oxygen supply but otherwise nothing unusual, at least unusual for a hospital bed. Her face was bruised but Tammy couldn't see much more.

"I was so afraid we'd lose her." Tammy was starting to cry, Tina gave her a hug.

"Tammy, Lori speaks highly of you, as does the Headmaster and Mrs Small. You're like a sister to her."

"I just want her to get better, has she said anything?"

"The doctors don't want her to speak, plus I don't want her to get upset. The Police want to interview Lori but we've put them off for a few days."

"How bad is she?"

"She lost a lung."

Tammy was speechless, her hand went to her mouth.

"She's alive, that's all that matters."

Tammy nodded. "How long before she can return to school?"

"That's impossible to say, even when she's well enough to get out of bed there's rehabilitation to come. We're talking months potentially, these were life-changing injuries."

"If there's anything I can do?"

"Thank you, but we'll transfer Lori to Manchester Royal Infirmary when she's safe to be moved. We're going to empty her flat as well, it's possible she'll never return to Thurso."

Tammy hadn't considered this as a likely outcome, but it made sense for the family who lived in Bury, close to Manchester. Just then Lori's eyes flickered open. "Tammy?"

She moved closer to the bed, Lori extracted a hand from under the covers and took Tammy's fingers. There was virtually no grip, she was plainly very weak, and was rasping when she spoke the next words.

"Mr Thompson."

Tammy wanted to find out more but Tina stopped her. "Sorry Tammy, but she's not able to be interrogated, I've already said that."

"Do you know what she meant?"

"No, and she's not said it before."

A nurse came into the room and ushered Tammy away, it was clearly the end of visiting time even if she hadn't had her fifteen minutes. Ryan had disappeared when she rejoined the others.

"He said he felt threatened by us!"

"Considering he's a thief and a liar, you should check your bags in case anything's missing. Visiting time's over, let's go."

The girls were disappointed they couldn't see Lori but were surprised to hear the news of Lori's injuries. When Tammy told them of Lori's words, they were as confused as well.

"So, what does it mean?"

"I wish I knew Angela, and please, you cannot say this to anyone, anyone at all. I'll let mum know but that's it."

"But, what if ....?"

"Don't go there, you could destroy the man's career on the basis of an unsubstantiated rumour."

"I feel awful for Lori, but was I the target?"

"I don't know Jeri, no-one does."

Sunday 7th June

"Hilary, do you realise what time it is?"

"Yes, Tammy."

"On a Sunday morning?"

"It's gone seven, so stop moaning. Could you please get over to Scrabster for the morning ferry?"

"That's not until half ten."

"And if I called you in two hours time you'll already be occupied and unavailable."

"Probably, what about any plans I already had?"

"You haven't said anything about plans so I guess you don't."

"Okay okay, what do you want me to do?"

"Park where you did before and I'll handle the rest. Take your camera for a walk around the inner harbour, just look like you're doing follow-up work on the survey."

"Fair enough."

"You'll get paid for this."

"As if that's something I'd worry about. Any news about my trip south?"

"No, I said you'd hear closer to the time."

"I only have two weeks of exams left."

"I know, now don't fall back asleep and miss that boat."

"Yes, boss."

Northlink Ferry tugmaster

When Tammy returned to her car there was a diesel tugmaster in the way, blocking the view of the road. It hadn't been there when she'd parked and she wondered if the whole exercise had been worth it.

"Oh, it's you." The harbour master's son was walking towards the vehicle.

"I hope so."


"I'm just leaving."

"Nice car, did your daddy buy it for you?"

"He might have done, why does that matter?"

He shrugged and climbed into the cab, she thought she heard "stuck up bitch" as he slammed the cab door. Tammy docked her phone and started the car up, ready to return home. The tug moved just before she did and now blocked her in.

"Jimmy McDonald, what game are you playing at?"

She was back out of the car, taking her phone, and went to intercept Jimmy who had climbed down.

"I think you're up to no good."

"Pardon? I'm here doing a survey."

"That's as may be. There's still something fishy about you."

Tammy ignored him and went up the stairs to the harbour master's office.

"Do you have a problem, Miss Smart?"

"Yes Mr McDonald, your son has blocked me in."

"I told him to." Tammy pressed a recessed button on her phone, holding it in. This was a facility that Hilary had shown her a few weeks earlier, but only to be used in an emergency. It operated the microphone and sent a GPS locator to the Security Service duty office, allowing them to listen to the area around the phone.


"Your credentials are suspect, if you've come into the port on false pretences then that's a criminal offence."

"What a load of rubbish, I'm doing some follow-up work today on top of the main survey."

"Ah, I understand you've been to Wick and Thurso as well?"


"What are you surveying?"

"Didn't my boss, Miss Bull, tell you?"

"She did, apparently it's a brand new company with no history. The strange thing is, you seem to own the Caithness Marine building, including the dress shop below."


"It seems to be a bit strange that, it's even stranger when you didn't seem to exist a year ago but ...." He spotted Tammy's hand on her phone and made a grab for her phone. Tammy stepped back and Hamish McDonald ended up on the floor.

"Now, that was a little stupid? I suggest you have your tame pet move the tug out of my way. If any damage is done to my car then I will sue you personally and the harbour. Please don't give me a reason as I can't spare the time in court at the moment, what with my exams."

He picked himself up, clearly not used to being bettered by a girl. "You bitch!" He made another attempt to grab Tammy but failed when she moved a chair in the way, shoving it hard against him.

"Ugh!" This was the best he could say. Tammy took the opportunity to leave, quickly going down the external staircase to ground level. The harbour master was clearly not as fit as he might have thought and stumbled as he reached the last few stairs, ending up in a heap on the concrete below. This really did hurt and he laid there groaning.

Jimmy went running towards his father having seen nothing of the argument in the office, then turned around to come after Tammy. "Come here! I'll have you!"

Sensibly, that morning, she'd put on a pair of trousers so wasn't hindered by a skirt. Fortunately a car next to her had moved, giving her an opportunity to get out. Unfortunately, Jimmy was too close and it would have taken a 17 point turn.

A siren could be heard in the distance, Jimmy assumed his father had called the police and stopped, pointing at Tammy.

"Got you! We'll stitch you up better than a haggis."

The Police Scotland vehicle arrived, manned by the brothers Fraser. Neale went to Tammy while Andrew attended to Jimmy and his father. The allegations weren't slow in coming with plenty of finger pointing.

"Good morning Miss Smart, we received a call saying you were having troubles."

"Yes, thank you. I was attacked in the harbour master's office after my car was blocked in."

She still had her phone in her hand, she unlocked it and went to the audio recordings, hitting playback. Hamish and Jimmy's voices were clearly heard threatening Tammy.

"I see, this is your car?" He pointed at the Mini Cooper.

"Yes, officer."

He used his phone to take some photos of the layout, Tammy did likewise. "I suggest you go home, we'll speak to you later, if necessary."

"Sure." Tammy's pulse was racing but she made an effort to slow her breathing before she pulled out of the tight spot. Hilary called within a few seconds of her leaving.

"What went wrong, Tammy?"

"I wish I knew."

"Let the police handle them but I doubt if it will be more than a caution for them, that avoids getting your name disclosed in a sheriff's court."

"Good, I would like to know why he decided to do the digging, in case it happens again."

"Leave that with me, I'll do some background checks on the family and the other port managers."


"It goes without saying that you won't be asked to do port work in this area for a while, if ever."

"Sure, am I now useless?"

"No, don't get that impression. They had an agenda that you weren't aware of."

"So it didn't matter when I turned up there?"

"No, it's likely that the outcome would have been the same. Hopefully your training this summer will help you identify a problem in advance?"

"So, can you tell me?"

"Yes, on Monday the twenty second of this month you should fly down to London City and you'll be met there, please arrange your own tickets but we'll reimburse."


"You have an apartment near London City, don't you?"

"Yes, why?"

"No, it's nothing, but it's worth checking with you in case it's needed."

Tammy was driving past Dounraey, the dome reflecting the early summer sun, when she ended up on the back of a slow moving queue of traffic. One or two vehicles she recalled as having come off the ferry from Orkney.

A few minutes later the reason for the hold up was clear, there were sheep in the road. Tammy laughed, not that long ago she was risking violence, now she was waiting for Flossy to move out of the way. Unfortunately a ram had appeared and was happily trying to inseminate as many of the flock as possible. Tammy's car was seen as an interference so was butted. Tammy hit the horn to scare them then got away as soon as possible.

As soon as she parked up she was out checking for damage. There were two dents in the passenger side door, she broke down.

Joan was the first to see the distraught Tammy.

"Never mind, we'll get it fixed."

"No, mum, no. It's not that. I've had a horrible morning, a truly nasty Sunday." She was crying on Joan's shoulder.

"Come inside." She led Tammy to the sitting room, taking a seat next to her on the sofa. Joan waited for her daughter to dry her eyes.

"What happened?"

The day's events were replayed, Joan was not happy at all that Tammy had been put in that position.

"The self defence classes helped me, I wasn't touched. Hilary won't let me go back there."

"Neither would I. In fact I have doubts about this internship, I might not let you go."

"I'm eighteen so I'm old enough to make my own mind up, but I had fun in Cornwall at Easter. It's not the same as up here."

"In what way?"

"No-one down there knows me, up here I have a history and there's plenty of corpses in my wake!"

"That's nothing to be proud of."

"I know, but I don't go out looking for trouble, it just finds me."

"Yes, Tammy, it does. In spades too."

"Where's Dad, I want him to sort my car out."

"He's not a panel beater!"

"No, I mean call a garage."

"It's Sunday, or had you forgotten? Everywhere's closed."


"Call yourself a secret agent?"

"I never did!"

It was mid afternoon when Hilary called. "I think I've found the connection."

"Okay, I get the feeling I'm not going to like it."

"Hamish McDonald is the ex husband of Christine Trethgarwyn."

"Who's she?"

"The likely next candidate for the empty Thurso parliamentary seat. She was a friend of Veronica Salmond it seems."

"I don't like the sound of that."

"Neither do I."

"That fills me with confidence, Hilary."

"Be careful, Tammy, don't take any risks."

"I'm having doubts."

"That's why you need training, your confidence has taken a knock today."

"I know. Hang on, did you say Trethgarwyn?"


"Shit! Let Heather know, please."

"Already done."

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