TG Universes & Series:
"Better The Devil You Know"
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Somewhere North of London - July 2017
Tammy had settled into Abigail Adams House for her fortnight's training and had even ended up in her usual room, although the suspicion was that this was more down to luck than planning.
She'd arrived on the Sunday afternoon and quickly saw that her schedule was sparse but it was explained that did not mean she had any spare time. The first issue was that her early morning swim had been disrupted by a pre-breakfast self defence class, one hour long. She wasn't alone but the three others, all women, were working together and progressing quickly. The instructor was male and Tammy guessed he was a member of the site security team, although he hadn't said this.
What was odd was that she hadn't, so far, recognised a soul. The trainers and support staff were friendly and professional but she hadn't met any of them on her previous visits, maybe this was a consequence of the True Freedom infiltration?
One policy change was that she could now use her phone, but this was restricted to her room. She recalled that, previously, her phone was either confiscated or the connections were blocked. For now, however, it sat unused as she'd left it off since her arrival. A notice near the classrooms and in the dining room pointed out that phones were not permitted downstairs and Tammy suspected the signal blocker was still in use in the training areas.
Once the week's classes commenced, Tammy saw that the structure of the course was better this time, she wondered if the back-chat and familiarity had been a factor in previous visits to the house, but for now she knew nothing of the staff's background and they seemingly knew nothing of her.
The first day had covered administrative security and the need to be vigilant, with emphasis on wearing site ID at all times when on working premises and removing it when in public. Tammy, and seemingly all the other attendees, had been issued with a simple pass on arrival with a photo and first name, but one or two had already left their lanyards in bedrooms or bags so earned an immediate rebuke.
Tammy realised that most of those present had never done any operational work so the training so far was aimed primarily at pen pushers and keyboard warriors; it wasn't overly difficult stuff but the trainers used humour to put the message across and were great presenters, she was warming to them after just one session.
The second day concentrated on the need to log everything, however seemingly inconspicuous. Several examples were given and one of them related indirectly to her sister's boyfriend. Tammy searched her own memories to see if she had missed a trick but came up blank: was it possible that someone else failed to report a suspicion or a random connection and, perhaps, there was a missed opportunity to save Suzie?
They'd reached lunchtime and she learned that the Tuesday afternoon session was individual study, Tammy was handed a note to report to the armoury at 2pm, she'd lodged her weapons with one of the security detail on arrival, but didn't know if any of the trainers were even aware of the armoury as the note had been delivered by one of the support staff.
The pass around her neck didn't open the armoury outer door so she had to dash up to her room to grab her Security Service pass, and arrived a couple of minutes adrift of 2pm.
The armourer was the first familiar face she'd found. "Good afternoon Miss Smart, we have another session later in the week so don't feel pressured to test every weapon today."
"Every weapon? I only brought my two Glocks."
"I had a request for you to use the SIG Sauer P320 again, same as last December."
"Where did that request come from?"
"Somewhere way above my pay scale, but we can do that next time, what do you want to do first?"
"Let's get my Glocks out of the way."
"Sure, I have the '26 ready for you, twenty to warm up then test?"
Tammy spent ninety minutes on the range and she wasn't being hurried out, even after passing out with the smaller Glock '19.
"Isn't anyone else booked today?"
"No, Miss Smart, apart from the local security team, I don't have many guests these days."
"How much longer do I have?"
"Another half an hour if you'd like, I'm locking up when you leave."
"Okay, perhaps I can have twenty rounds with the P320?"
"Did you want to leave that until later in the week, when you'll have more time? I have something else for you to try."
"No, I just happen to have this here, let me get it."
The armourer returned with Beretta M9. "This is currently being used by the US Marine Corps, it handles quite differently to your Glocks. Have a go."
Tammy found herself adjusting to the new weapon and it took five minutes before she was confidently hitting the target's inner rings.
"Well done, I thought you might have taken longer to adapt to it."
Tammy left with her two pass slips, she wouldn't need to hit a range again for at least six months, these had to go up to her room. so went up to her room and changed for the pool. There was a small gym on site and this was next to the pool in the former situation room, where she'd learned of the terrorist infiltration during her last visit. Tammy decided to give herself a work out on the running machine before getting into the pool.
A few souls joined her either in the gym or in the pool as their afternoon sessions ended although a few merely put their heads in the doorway and muttered about not knowing the facility was there.
She rinsed off using the shower by the pool and forewent undies when she dressed to go back to her room, the swimsuit wrapped in her towel.
Once she'd showered again, this time using shampoo and conditioner, Tammy was ready to dress for the late afternoon and evening. The days were warm so she pulled on a simple playsuit and sandals. As an afterthought, she turned on her phone, finding several missed calls and text messages.
Joey - the special phone keeps ringing
Richard - multiple calls for you, told them I don't know where you are
Marcus - Where the hell are you?
Marcus - Answer the phone!
Marcus - Don't ignore me
Joey - Calls on the office phone for you now, told them I don't know where you are
Richard - Can you deal with these people? Fed up telling them I don't know!
Joey - A guy, sounded New Zealand, came to the office looking for you. Told him the same.
Unknown - You have won a prize in our lottery, click this link to see prize
Jim - Caller at the airport, same guy you flew out with in May. Told him you were away, he wasn't happy
Marcus - Report to Wattisham immediately
There was a slew of missed calls from most of the above and Tammy had left her voicemail switched on so inevitably found several to listen to. She switched her phone back off, there was every chance Marcus had access to phone tracking and she didn't want to risk it, although even five minutes was enough to pinpoint her location.
Whatever Marcus wanted, she wasn't available until her course finished eleven days into the future. She was enjoying the relaxed atmosphere in the house and, as far as she knew, there was a complete programme of activities for the fortnight she was there. Tammy grabbed her small bag and went downstairs, then out into the gardens.
She walked down to the small lake in the South-Western corner and found her way around to the wooden hut on the farside. Inside she found a small freezer with a selection of Magnum ice-cream bars, one before dinner wouldn't spoil her appetite?
She sat on the steps of the hut watching the pondlife, including a kingfisher on a nearby branch that seemed to be following something in the water. Suddenly the bird dived and retrieved a fish, although Tammy wasn't certain what it was. By the time the kingfisher was back on his branch he had swallowed the fish and was eyeing his next meal.
Without a phone Tammy had no way to judge the time but this didn't bother her, so long as she didn't miss any meals.
"These are good. Now I why know Kerri likes it. Too bad there's only the bars," Tammy mumbled to herself while munching the bar.
The two weeks before Tammy's trip South had been manic and she couldn't have managed without Joey, the girl was a godsend and Tammy had put a huge amount of trust into her when she passed on the safe combination, purely so the girl could extract the spare packet of biscuits during Tammy's absence.
Tammy meanwhile had completed both of the piloting courses and could now fly at night or with just instruments. She'd also managed to attend an evening at her old school, St Andrews, when a portrait of herself had been unveiled outside the six form common room, marking Tammy's legacy as the first head girl in the hitherto boys only school.
Florence had given Tammy some good news; she was booked to have her op done in August and was taking a gap year before university, not that anyone there could have guessed that she hadn't been born a girl. In return, the school had asked that Florence worked there, supporting the female students.
The Headmaster, asked Tammy for a quiet word. "Have you given any more thought to my request?"
"To direct your autumn production of Macbeth?"
"Yes, we're short of a member of staff in the English department but, regardless of that, your production three years ago was very well received."
"Despite it not being my job?"
"Quite, will you help us?"
"Every Wednesday evening, from seven, starts 13th September."
"I'd appreciate having someone from the English department for the first two weeks and there may be times I'm out of Thurso?"
"Understood, I'm sure we can accommodate that. Come and see me when term starts."
Her seat by the lake was being scanned and she spotted two girls, about her own age, heading towards her. She recognised them from breakfast, but hadn't seen them in any of her sessions.
Tammy pointed behind her. "In there, but keep it to yourselves."
The pair joined Tammy on the step, although it was a bit of a squeeze.
"I'm Zoe and she's Di."
"So how did you find the ice cream?"
"I've been here before and found it some time ago, I just don't get here when it's warm usually."
Tammy was deliberately trying to keep the conversation away from home or work but she had a feeling it wouldn't last.
"It's nice here, ain't it Di, but I thought we could go home at the weekend? I suppose you're stuck here because it's a long way to Scotland?"
"I flew down so it didn't take too long."
"Err, Highland Air."
"N'ver 'eard of 'em, what about you, Di?"
"Nah, must be one of those budgie airlines?"
Tammy didn't know why she lied to the girls, it was an immediate reaction and she wasn't feeling to keen on correcting it. The sound of a gong from afar, settled all matters for the moment.
"Ooh, dinner!" The girls started chomping on their Magnums, making short work of them. Zoe tossed her stick towards the bin. "Yay! Got it!"
Tammy tried to place their accents, Zoe was from the Eastern end of London or even Essex she determined. Di hadn't said too much so Tammy couldn't be sure, not that this was any knowledge she wanted or desired.
Normally Tammy wouldn't have assessed a person with a stereotypical thought but she did wonder how that pair, Zoe in particular, ever managed to gain work in the intelligence sector.
The next few days were spent between class sessions and generalised one-to-one sessions that covered issues Tammy knew but in more depth. On Friday morning she finally came across someone who had seemingly read her file, worts and all.
"Miss Smart, why do you think you survived the re-organisation that followed the severe breach at the end of last year?"
"That's an interesting way to put it? Firstly, there was a cull and many good people were put out of work. As for the mole hunt, no-one bar me, and one or two others, believed there even was a problem, and then they were made to believe I was the bloody mole! What a shambles!"
"That's a different view of the circumstances, but how did you survive?"
"The official line is that my name was already known plus I could hardly be sacked when my work actually led to the mole's capture?"
"That's a little presumptuous of you?"
"Perhaps but I think you'll find it accurate."
"Let's have a look at how you went about your mole hunt; you involved a foreign intelligence agent, one who didn't even work for a recognised sister organisation?"
"It seemed I couldn't trust anyone on the inside so I went to someone who is trusted, but isn't part of the mainstream, not publicly anyway."
"This agent is the same one who took out a terrorist unit with you two years ago?"
"Yes, but I'd have preferred a quiet coffee and pastry instead of a room full of Chechen gunmen!"
"You had no second thoughts about engaging an enemy despite your clear lack of training?"
"I did have training, but perhaps that's not in the file you've obviously read? In any case, how many would have died? All of the staff and customers left that coffee bar alive."
"Then you managed to kill someone whilst giving evidence in the subsequent inquest for the dead terrorists?"
"Not exactly, I hadn't been sworn in but my brief had been killed and I was next."
"You took a weapon to an inquest?"
"I was in a hotel room a mile from Westminster Magistrates and my life was in danger. Is any of this relevant?"
"By your own testimony, Miss Smart, you are reckless, you use unorthodox methods, you communicate with foreign parties without authority and you have used a weapon to kill on several occasions in public places."
"You should know that on those occasions I would have been dead had I not defended myself. As for the rest, it's a matter of opinion how I work but in many cases I was not on active operational duty and one time I was unarmed at a funeral when I was attacked. I do not go out looking for trouble but I have to be prepared to deal with it. I've also learned that for every action, there is an equal and opposing criticism, especially by those who will never be in the same circumstances in their life."
"It's been noted in your personal file that you have been asked to let the police handle small matters and yet you've regularly ignored that advice?"
"At that funeral one police officer was already dead and another seriously injured, I don't suppose my file has any sympathy for those officers families? or that my action saved lives?"
"You seem to base your justifications on killing to save lives, isn't that warped thinking?"
"Not at all, but why are you concentrating on that? Why not my analytical skills?"
"Because those don't put you and your colleagues in danger."
"And you believe I do that deliberately?"
"It has been noted."
Tammy laughed. "What's your aim here? To make me resign?"
"Not necessarily, but you are seen as a liability, Miss Smart."
"Really? Wouldn't that be 'warped thinking'? I'd say I've been an asset?"
"How would your sister, your step-sister, see that?"
"Suzie, of course." Tammy guessed that the woman didn't know about Angela and had probably glanced over the relevant part of her file, or maybe had only seen an extract?
"She was a keyboard queen and only saw operational action when she was with me."
"That's out of bounds! I do not chose when action happens, but in the spirit of survival, of myself and others; I do choose to deal with it."
"And you think you are qualified to make such choices?"
"Yes, though I wonder why you think you may be qualified to judge that."
"What about your new assistant?"
"I asked for Joey to be cleared before she started working with me and she has no access to anything other than business sensitive data."
"Indeed, but how do you explain your fortnight away?"
"By being honest to an extent, I told her I was on a course."
"And did you also tell her you were coming to a security service establishment?"
"No, she didn't need to know that."
"For information, her clearance is one of the lowest, just enough to show she's not a known criminal and has no known terrorist connections; that does not mean she can be trusted. Your involvement in the Security Service has put your employees, family and friends at grave risk and has had security implications when you gleefully break the Official Secrets Act?"
"Now you're in the land of fantasy, I see operational security as vital to my well-being and I have helped prevent damage to the intelligence agencies that otherwise might have ended up in the press?"
The inquisitor shuffled her papers. "Tell me, Miss Smart, what were you doing at HMNB Clyde recently?"
"I presume you're referring to Faslane? That's not for discussion."
"That's not up to you to decide?"
"Ah, but Faslane is a military location and I don't believe you're cleared for that. It's obviously not in my file, is it?"
"That's irrelevant but, contrary to any rumours, we do not keep a daily tab on you."
"I'm glad to hear it."
"You are however required to disclose anything the service decides is relevant."
"Unless I am going to compromise operational security in the process, so get stuffed."
"Miss Smart, we might not keep a daily tab but that doesn't mean we don't monitor other sources. For example, in the past few months you've flown a considerable distance?"
"The service is aware I had obtained a private pilot's licence."
"Where did you go?"
"Let me see; I can't remember every trip, but my plane's logbook will record my destinations as that's a legal requirement."
"Can we see it?"
"It's locked in my plane in Birmingham, I landed there and took the train the rest of the way."
"Have you ever tried to fly a small plane anywhere near London? Or even considered what landing charges apply close to the capital?"
"I think we'll finish there for the day, Miss Smart."
"Good, now I can get outside and enjoy the sun, as opposed to this windowless interrogation cell?"
Tammy was left without a response so exited the room content that she'd laid a false trail for her inquisitor. Her plane wasn't at Birmingham Airport as she'd landed at an airfield fifteen miles away near Wolverhampton. This had needed a cab to the nearest railway station and a cash ticket to London via a non-direct route. It hadn't been cheap to leave her plane on the ground for two weeks, but Jim had negotiated a sensible discount for her in a hangar and it reduced the risk considerably whilst not adding more than two hours to her travels.
It was still only eleven in the morning so Tammy took a leisurely stroll around the garden, ending up by the lake again. Unfortunately all she found in the freezer was cold air, but there were plenty of empty wrappers on the floor. Some were even near the bin.
She collected up the garbage and deposited it, but her desire for ice-cream was fading fast. She walked away, continuing her tour, as Zoe and Di arrived at the hut from the other direction.
"Hey, don't they ever restock, or empty the bin, Zoe?"
"Nah, let's complain to the boss lady."
It was humid outside and Tammy was getting sticky so she opted to head back inside, where the air-con was working overtime.
"Hello Miss Smart, I wasn't expecting to see you until this afternoon?"
"My session finished early and I'd like to release some stress."
"I'll find you the P320 then."
Tammy asked that the targets were set for quick reaction and easily forgot her issues as she concentrated on putting the ammunition in the right place.
"Not bad, have you used a P320 since you were last here?"
"No, but I've been on another range and used a selection of weapons recently. Perhaps I'm learning to adapt better?"
"Indeed, did you want to test with the P320?"
"Sure, I have time before lunch."
Tammy's stress had disappeared by the time she emerged from the range, holding a pass slip for a weapon she'd probably not use again. The lunch bell sounded so she headed for the dining room.
Given she didn't have a bag with her, or pockets, Tammy tucked the sheet of paper under a plate once she'd sat down. Gradually the room filled and polite conversation ensued, until Zoe spotted Tammy.
"It's her fault there's no Magnums left."
A number of heads turned to follow Zoe's finger, but Tammy ignored the baseless accusation apart from shaking her head twice.
"Guilty! I know that look!"
Tammy gave up and left the table, her appetite diminished. She fingered her course ID, hanging around her neck, and had an idea. Up in her room she withdrew her Security Service ID card from her bag and went back down, avoiding the dining room doorway. Just outside the conservatory glass doors was an unmarked door with a security swipe. A moment later she was through that door and stood by a counter.
"Hello Miss Smart, what can I do for you?"
"Who the hell is Zoe? Is she here to antagonise me?"
"This office handles site security, however we don't decide who is sent to Abigail Adams House on a course."
"So you haven't been watching her?"
"I didn't say that. However, you have a problem."
"Yes, you breached security when you left your range slip at the table."
"We've reviewed the footage and can see it was an honest mistake, even so it was a breach." He handed her the paper.
"Thanks and I understand, so what's the punishment?"
"That's not for us to decide, nice score by the way."
"Err, thanks, but you didn't answer my question about Zoe?"
"No, I didn't. Is there anything else?"
"I guess not."
"Can I just give you one piece of advice? Not everyone here this week is directly working for an intelligence agency so you cannot assume anyone is cleared for anything."
"Then how did you know who I am, my course ID only has my first name on it?"
"Which wouldn't open the door into this office. I was here in December when you spent a couple of days here, we were watching everyone then."
"Yeah, that wasn't an easy time."
"Dealing with traitors is never easy."
"Here's a freebie, Miss Smart; the pair of litter louts are forensic assistants from one of the provincial police forces and they're going home this afternoon. Have a good day."
Tammy knew she'd been dismissed so left the office, although she was immediately blinded by the brilliant sunshine and hadn't worn her sunglasses. She still had her Security Service pass in her hand, as well as the range slip, and needed to put these away as soon as possible.
"Oh, look, it's little Miss Smart, who likes guns!"
"Can't you grow up?"
"Ooooh, she has a tongue now!"
"I suggest you stop right now."
Zoe produced a small mobile phone and photographed Tammy before she could react. "The newspapers will love this!"
Tammy stepped towards Zoe to grab the phone but the girl stepped back. Tammy's anger wasn't abating and she recalled a move from the self defence class, kicking the phone out of the woman's hand. Zoe went to retrieve it and Tammy swept her feet away, Zoe kissed the concrete, earning a bloody nose and smashing a pair sunglasses. She swore, loudly.
Three of the site security team suddenly appeared, although only one had come through the door behind Tammy. Zoe was bundled away through the security door and Di, who initially had been giggling in the background, was also taken. Tammy retrieved the cellphone and let herself back into the office. The two girls were at the back of the room being processed.
Tammy spoke quietly. "When do you need my statement?"
"As soon as possible, we'll drop a statement form into your room in a couple of minutes and I suggest you stay there until dinner time."
"Will do." Tammy affirmed then looked to Zoe, now holding her bloody nose. "The media won't be getting this." She dropped the phone to the floor and stamped her heel to the screen, handing the debris to the officer. Tammy turned and left without another word.
She made it to her room intact and the requisite form was already there. It was an annoyance to do it without a keyboard so Tammy drafted it on notepaper first, then transcribed the final version. The whole process took an hour, but she wanted to include some background although she tried to avoid drawing conclusions. She had no idea where the statement would be going, but it was fair to say it would be on her personal file for a while, next to the breach notice.
She rang the security office to let them know she was done then put the radio on. She needed to de-stress, again, so took the time to have a shower before dressing in fresh clothes. Meanwhile her statement had been collected and now propped up on the desk was an envelope with her name. She half expected it was news about Zoe and Di, instead she was told that she would be leaving before dinner to a hotel in central London for two days of additional training and should pack a bag with formal and informal clothes.
That didn't tell her much so Tammy packed an LBD, two light frocks plus shorts, skirts and tops. She added a cardigan for the evenings and a selection of undies to cover all foreseeable needs. Tammy thought about it, then simply packed everything in the event of not returning. Of course this could be just a ruse; to get her out of the building whilst they dealt with the litter louts or perhaps this been pre-planned - her schedule hadn't included anything other than a visit to the range on Friday afternoon and she'd already done that.
The bedside phone rang at half past three and invited her to take the lift down to the sub-basement. Tammy carried all of her clothes and documents, just in case.
The armourer met her by the underground carpark lift doors. "Here's your Glock 19 and a thigh holster. Sign here please Miss Smart."
Tammy did as asked. "What about my '26?"
"I wasn't told to return that, sorry."
She didn't have time to argue before he walked away and two BSH goons suggested, strongly, that she climbed into the back of an MPV. She buckled in then removed the lanyard. Wherever she was going, she wouldn't need it. Tammy moved the holster into her suitcase, forcing it into a corner. The small Glock went into her shoulder bag which was already overfull.
The two goons were up front but neither had said where they were going, and London isn't a small city. The windows to Tammy's left and right were dark so that made it difficult to follow their route, but looking through the windscreen she could see they were nearing the West End.
Finally they stopped in Ebury St, Belgravia, outside the Olive Branch hotel. One of the goons stepped out, opened her door and handed Tammy an envelope, before pointing at the hotel door.
She passed her suitcase to him and stepped out, painfully aware of her short skirt. Her shoulder bag went over her neck, she could not afford to have that lifted off her shoulder. No sooner than she was on the pavement that the goon returned to his seat and the vehicle sped away, towards Victoria St.
She climbed the steps into the reception and looked at the envelope, it was addressed to Beccy Adams. Tammy groaned, that identity was blown, wasn't it?
"Hello Miss, can I help?"
"Yes, hello, do you have a reservation for a Beccy Adams?"
"We do, do you have a credit card?"
Tammy had her own cards but took a look in the envelope and found a First National card in her alias; she handed it over.
"You haven't signed it, Miss."
"Oh, sorry, it's just been replaced and my office handed me this," she waved the envelope at the receptionist, "without telling me what they'd done. I have no idea what else is in here." She signed the card and handed it over again.
A moment later the receptionist printed the reservation sheet and had Tammy sign that, handing her a duplicate and a key card. "You're on the fourth floor, I'll have your bag brought up."
"I'll take it in the lift."
"Sorry, it's out of order at the moment." A bell sounded and a porter arrived. "Room 503."
Tammy had spotted some petty cash in the envelope so was ready when the pair arrived outside the door of room 503, she handed over a £5 note. Once inside she latched the door and dragged her case over to unpack it. With her clothes hung she located the room safe and set a combination.
Finally she took a look in the envelope. Apart from the credit card, there was a driving licence, £250 in mixed notes and a folded sheet of note paper.
Your grandma needs to see you. 1900hrs
It was approaching 5pm and Tammy wanted to make a few calls to verify the instructions, but she didn't want to make herself visible so her phone stayed off. She still had no idea why she was in the West End or what she was supposed to do for two days.
Tammy transferred the cash to her purse, along with the new credit card and the ID, her personal cash and ID went in the safe for now.
It was six thirty before she hit the street, now dressed so she could go into any bar without being asked her age.
She decided to walk, it wasn't far and she felt safe enough on the streets as they were busy. Tammy arrived at the Vietnamese restaurant just before seven and walked in.
"Hello Miss, it is nice to see you again."
"Hello, I have been asked to see Grandma."
"Of course, she is waiting in the back room."
Tammy glanced around the main restaurant but it was sparsely occupied and everyone was from South East Asia. She'd been here twice before, firstly when Kerri introduced her to the family and again when she'd taken Suzie, Dave Brown and Kevin Edmunds there in order to distract them from the fallout the previous December.
She was warmly greeted by the Grandma and told to sit next to her. Conversation was light as Tammy hadn't practised her Vietnamese and barely managed a greeting.
Tammy was served a beer, this time she was ready for the stronger taste. A noise from the restaurant produced a gentleman, Grandma rose to greet him and he exchanged a few words with her before turning to Tammy.
"Ah, Miss Smart, you received the message?"
"I did, but it was a little light on detail, Colonel MacTaggart."
"Out of necessity, it had to be a message that only you would understand."
"Okay, but why are we here?"
"Because the food is exceptional and we don't have the time to fly to Saigon."
Smalltalk was required but that didn't stop the Colonel from asking about Tammy's family and how she was progressing with her flight training.
"I'm doing my conversion course for the Epic when I get back up there, I had to fly my small plane down here."
"Which is at Wolverhampton?"
"Err, yes, how do you know?"
"I have resources available, and don't worry, Wade doesn't know anything."
"I don't think he's happy with me right now?"
"That's not a concern, another beer?"
Tammy declined the offer but the hint was clear enough: no operational talk at the table.
It was gone nine when they left, Tammy looped her arm through Sean MacTaggart's.
"So where are we going?"
"Let's walk and talk, Tammy. How are you finding the work?"
"Marcus seems to think I can drop and run when he clicks his fingers."
"That's because the military runs like that."
"Well I'm not really military, am I?"
"Clearly, and that presents a problem."
"How are you finding the course?"
"Apart from today's problem it's going okay. It's a refresher and I'm learning new things, for once it's not a training course that's been thrown together because there's been an issue."
"True, and why do you think that is?"
"I called and booked myself onto a course?"
"Yes, Tammy, you took control."
"I guess this is the type of course I should have had from the very beginning?"
"Indeed, it's an induction course for most but you get some personalised extras."
"Fine, so where do you come in?"
"I run Broadsword."
"I thought Marcus did?"
"No, he is a component. I use him when his team is needed but he has other roles. The thing is, he thinks he owns you."
"Yeah, I had that impression as well. I know the Security Service tried to shaft me last year but 'better the devil you know'?"
"Indeed, but don't dismiss Captain Wade, he's provided training that you wouldn't easily organise by yourself."
"So how do I play this?"
"Leave that with me, but it might take a few weeks to organise."
They'd reached the street door to a bar and Tammy recognised the sign.
"Oh, I remember this place. Kerri brought me here. This is where I first met you."
"Indeed, come on, I fancy a decent scotch."
Tammy had found a note under her hotel room door telling her to be in a coffee shop on Victoria St at ten on Saturday morning. First though she went to a store and picked up two new tops, in differing colours and styles. She was wearing white shorts so also bought a knee length denim skirt. She arrived at the coffee shop early and took a seat away from the glass windows where she could monitor the area. Her hair was clipped up, away from her face.
The last person she expected to see was Kyle.
"So I didn't get a kiss when you said goodbye?"
He said it loud enough that heads turned, she had to reply quickly.
"You didn't deserve one, just another flash in the pan."
He leaned over and lowered his voice, "is that the way you saw it?"
She kissed his cheek, "Maybe I do, maybe I don't."
Kyle went to the counter to get a coffee and Tammy smiled at the few who were still looking in her direction. She had no idea what he was trying to do, apart from putting on a show.
"Kyle, you need a shave."
"I only got notification last night I was supposed to be here, I was looking for you in Scotland."
"Did Marcus tell you to find me here?"
"No, I received my orders another way. My whole team is in the area; your job is to spot them, but keep out of their sight."
"How many are there?"
Kyle laughed, "not saying!"
"Well, there's one on his own, pretending to read a newspaper, who looks like Bruce."
"Well done, but that's your easy one as you knew him. Drink your coffee then we'll go for a walk."
"I need a wee first."
Tammy wasn't happy that Kyle had turned up and was mildly irritated when she returned from the loo to find him absent, Bruce had also gone. She was amazed that her shopping bag was still there, she'd taken her shoulder bag into the cubicle.
She checked the shopping bag for any trackers and ordered another coffee, staying at the same seat to watch the street. She turned her phone on, there seemed little point in hiding if Kyle knew where she was.
It didn't take long for her to spot another one of the Captain's team and she took a pic with her phone. After another ten minutes she hadn't seen any more of them so forwent the remaining coffee and visited the ladies loo again.
When she emerged she'd swapped her pink and white top for an aqua one and unclipped her hair, brushing it down with a dampened comb. She exited onto Victoria St and turned East. There was a Pret on the right hand side so she entered there, bought a bottle of water and a cake, and waited.
It wasn't long before she'd snapped three more likely military types. In the loo; she swapped her shorts for the denim skirt and changed her top for one that looked more like a lace vest then re-styled her hair into a ponytail. She slipped on a pair of sunglasses as she exited, checked up and down then crossed the wide road dodging the buses and taxis, taking a photo or two on each pavement.
The Albert pub was her next stop and she found four of the team in the back bar before she'd even ordered a drink. Tammy walked around to the main bar and ordered an OJ before asking where the loo was, guessing correctly that there was an access onto both bars. She got her photo.
Tammy collected her OJ and sat near one of the windows with a view over the street, but making sure she was not herself visible.
She saw Kyle outside the pub twenty minutes later and he went into the back bar. She guessed all of the boys were now there so she walked past the loos.
"Smile, boys, got you!"
A few choice words were uttered, causing a barmaid to chastise them.
"Tammy, you weren't wearing that earlier?"
"No, Kyle, I wasn't. Let me guess, you let everyone have my description and you majored on my clothes and ignored the things I don't change?"
"Damn. Anyway, you didn't see us on the street, did you?"
She handed over her phone so he could look through the images. "Bloody hell, she found you all." Tammy took her phone back then turned it off.
It was nearing midday so they decided to order lunch where they were sat. Tammy had nothing planned for the afternoon, so allowed herself a beer with her tuna salad.
She returned to the hotel for a shower and found another note under her door. She would be collected for dinner at six thirty and was to entertain her host for the evening. Tammy decided to have a few hours rest before taking a bath then washing her hair. She had no idea where she was going, or who she would be with, but at least she had a suitable dress for the night, even if she felt like she was being used as a call-girl.
As it was, her evening was almost a total non-event. Her host was the lecherous barrister, Sir Francis Drake, who had attempted to represent her at the inquest almost a year earlier. They ate at The Ivy and Tammy realised very quickly she was under-dressed, even though she was in a LBD, she cursed the lack of information and the many hours she could have spent looking for a better frock.
Sir Francis tried to be a gentleman, an eccentric one at that, but his idea of smalltalk was either discussing a recent court case or enquiring if Tammy had killed anyone recently.
To show some cheek, Tammy replied casually. "The night is young."
At least he didn't attempt to mansplain the menu or the wine list, having recalled their previous dinner appointment. The food, and wine, were excellent and ultimately she wasn't embarrassed by his behaviour. She turned down a nightcap suggestion and was dropped back at her hotel well before 11. Tammy still had a clear head so she wrote up the evening in note form and then wrote a report on the morning's activities, these were locked in the safe overnight.
Tammy found a Wetherspoons pub in Victoria Station for breakfast, having picked up a Sunday paper and, once she'd fetched a coffee refill, switched on her phone. It took a few minutes to catch up with the missed messages and she muted it quickly.
Finally there was a text message saying she would be collected at ten and should be outside the hotel waiting. It was ten minutes before ten and she was half a mile away, but Tammy didn't care. She first finished her coffee then used the loo.
She arrived outside the Olive Branch just as a black MPV pulled up, the same two BSH goons were up front.
"I'll be back in a minute, I just need to collect my bag."
Tammy had mostly packed before going for breakfast but had left toothpaste etc out and hadn't emptied the safe of the items within. All this took time.
Fortunately the lift was working again, so she rode down to the reception and checked out. Tammy was a little disappointed that the vehicle had gone and wasn't comfortable stood there. A minute or so later the MPV returned, but she was left to open the rear door herself and there was no help forthcoming for her luggage. The vehicle was already moving as she pulled the seat-belt across her.
Back at Abigail Adams House she first paid a visit to the armoury to hand in her weapon.
"Did you discharge it?"
"Okay, sign here ..."
Upstairs she unpacked her case and sorted out her laundry. A couple of contact report forms had appeared so she transferred her notes and wrote Saturday's adventures up formally. The swimming pool beckoned so she donned a swimsuit, grabbed a towel and a change of clothes then headed down. The house was quiet and the pool was deserted when she arrived there.
"Oh, you're here?"
Tammy had been floating with her eyes closed when she suddenly heard a familiar voice.
"Yes, of course it's me. Didn't you see the message I sent you a few days ago?"
"I was told on Thursday to be here by this morning. I've been looking for you since I arrived."
"I don't know, and perhaps I should have told them to sod off?"
"Look, Suzie, I knew nothing, I still don't."
"Okay, okay, but can you imagine what mum's saying right now?"
"Yeah, especially as I didn't tell her where I was going."
"Well, I guessed."
"Can you hand me my towel please?"
Tammy climbed out. "I'm going back to my room to shower, walk with me if you like?"
When Tammy returned to the bedroom, freshly washed, Suzie was reading her notes from Saturday's events. Tammy let her read them, there was nothing confidential in the notes, whilst she looked for a top and shorts.
"So they put you in a hotel so you could play kiss chase with the army and have an old guy take you to dinner?"
"More or less."
"What was the point of it?"
"No idea, Suzie, I really have no idea, but it was better than being cooped up here. Have you not been told why they want to see you?"
"Apparently it's a debrief."
"Never mind, we'll find out eventually, let's go see if lunch is ready."
Suzie was collected from the dining room so Tammy went into the garden and checked that the little freezer had been restocked, although she left the ice-cream alone for now. She did however sit on the steps of the lakeside hut and must have fallen asleep as Suzie shook her awake.
"Oh, I thought you'd be hours?"
"I was, it's gone three."
"How was it?"
"Odd, we went back over the first time I met Alex and his sister and then they took me through the next year, up to last December when I lost my job."
"That sounds like territory you've already been interviewed about?"
"Yes, but this wasn't as deep, it was more about dotting an I or crossing a T. There were no right or wrong answers."
"As you said, odd. Fancy an ice-cream?"
"We cant leave the house and I doubt there's a shop within five miles of here!"
Tammy walked into the hut and came back with two almond Magnums.
Tammy was back in the classroom on Monday, after self-defence and breakfast of course. Most of the attendees were new faces and she quickly realised that this was the same material as a week earlier, even if it was a different tutor. She kept quiet, even when there was a similar experience in the afternoon. She hoped the first week wasn't going to repeat itself, wasting her time.
She found Suzie before dinner. "I haven't see you since breakfast?"
"I went down to Thames House and had an interview with John Smith."
"Oh, what was that about?"
"He asked me to say nothing, especially to you, but you can guess is was about security."
"Yeah, considering that's his job! Any idea how much longer will they keep you here?"
"A few more days. He asked if we had anywhere new to live in London, by the way."
"Really? They could have asked me that."
"He asked it as I was leaving, so it wasn't part of the interview."
"So maybe just an afterthought? We don't have a replacement apartment yet, do we?"
"I think it's going through this week, I thought you knew?"
"I've been a bit occupied recently. Where is it?"
"It's in Epping, not far from North Weald Airfield. Anyway, it's a house with parking and it's walking distance from the nearest Tube station."
"A house, oh, how many bedrooms?"
"Four, Dad wants the master one for when he and mum have to stay down South and we get the other rooms as and when we need them, all en-suite. There's a Tesco nearby and Stansted Airport is a couple of junctions away on the motorway."
"Sounds ideal, I could fly into North Weald and just take a cab to the house, or is there a pub nearby?"
"I think I saw one, the George and something is on the through road and five minutes walk from the house, why?"
"Security, I could get a cab to drop me at the pub and not give them the address. Flying into there is useful, I'd just need Jim to sort out a deal for overnight parking and hangar space. When will we get the keys?"
"Not until the end of this week, assuming everything goes through okay. You'd know all of this already if you had been at breakfast any day last week."
"Well, I had to stay in Inverness for days at a time to get my accreditation done."
"That can't be cheap and I bet you can't ask your business to pay for it?"
"True, so I had to take some money out of savings. You know I hardly ever socialise and if I go anywhere it's usually on expenses so I manage to save regularly. I used that pot of money."
"The rainy day money then, Tammy?"
"Yeah, but I couldn't use it to replace the car now, not until I build up that pot again. What about you, when's your last pay from the Security Service?"
"It was just over a week ago."
"So you really need a job now?"
"Yes, and I'm sorry for ruining it, walking out on you then stealing your boyfriend."
"You were welcome to him, remind me - how long did he last?"
"Two weeks, and why bother asking as I think you knew exactly the moment I told him to sod off!"
"Hey, you were shouting into your phone, even the Orkneys could hear you!"
Suzie winced. "Right. Fairly certain they did."
The dinner bell stopped further chatter and they found themselves separated at the table.
Tammy was back with the inquisitor on Tuesday and she was asked almost exactly the same questions as before. Naturally Tammy gave the same answers and wondered what game was being played, finally a new question was asked.
"How did you find the exercises?"
"Easy enough, although I wasn't certain I was being tested?"
"Your reports said as much. We wanted to see how you coped in situations where you had minimal information."
"So, as my sister said, I played kiss-chase with the guys and acted as arm candy for Sir Francis."
"Were you happy to see your sister here?"
"Unexpected yes, but otherwise I'm cool with it."
"Is this a trick question? Eight months ago she was declared a security risk and slung out. If I had been asked whether I'd see her during my stay then the simple answer is that I wouldn't."
"Are you close?"
"We live separate lives and, until I started work with the Service, I hardly saw Suzie."
"You employed her?"
"For a while, yes."
"Why did she leave?"
"She quit after she stole my boyfriend and that distracted her from the job."
"You had a boyfriend?"
Tammy stared at the woman. "What?"
"No, what the hell did you mean?"
"I'm sorry, it didn't sound right."
"No it bloody didn't!"
"This session is over."
Tammy stood by the door and held the handle, unfortunately there was no lock on the inside. "No, you tell me what the hell you meant."
"I meant nothing, it was a slip of the tongue."
"Piss off, don't treat me like a fool. What did you mean?"
There was a knock on the door, Tammy answered "We're busy."
"Open the door please Miss Smart."
Tammy moved out of the way and released the door handle, one of the security team entered to check the room and Tammy was invited to leave, John Smith was outside.
"The study, now."
Tammy followed him silently and took a seat in the oak panelled room, in the same chair that she'd sat when Suzie received her sacking.
"Firstly, Miss Smart, can I apologise?"
"Did she have a problem with me?"
"It seems that way, we will deal with her. The question was completely off limits."
"Okay, but I hope I never see her again?"
"You won't. Now, shall we talk about Suzie?"
"Yes, why is she really here? You spent some time with her yesterday?"
"I did. Were you aware that Alex and Francesca Fullerton were sentenced last week for their part in the True Freedom security breach?"
"No, last I heard was that the trial was due to start and that was last month."
"We've been rather keen to bring Suzie back, but we've had to satisfy not just ourselves that she isn't a security risk."
"She's no risk at all."
"Given that we paid her off, we also had to wait until she wasn't tied to the Service in order to bring her back in."
"I see, hence the interviews this week?"
"Yes, there's an opening for a financial analyst on the European major crime desk."
"So, better the devil you know?"
"We needed someone in place soon as several investigations are relying on extra manpower. I'm sorry that we had to lose Suzie at all in December but rules are rules."
"It wasn't her fault."
"We know, but she was tarnished by association. Maybe now, we can fix the wrongs?"
"Have you told her?"
"Not yet, I wanted to know if there was anything you could add to the discussion?"
"Nothing at all, please give the girl her job back!"
"Consider it done, I'll see her after lunch."
Tammy looked out over the water, towards Orkney. She'd been back in her office barely one day when she received a short message from Kerri.
Sat-phone, private. Two hours.
An hour later she suggested to Joey it was a quiet day, which wasn't entirely untrue, and suggested they both went home.
Tammy however drove around to her lock-up and retrieved the sat phone from her grab bag. Back at the office, she'd put it on charge for as long as she could.
She powered down her cellphone and walked down to the seafront, following the safety rail as she walked to the mouth of the river, before turning and walking back. The walk ended when the phone started vibrating, she answered it.
"Seems like things aren't going so well." The now familiar voice of Kerri remarked.
Tammy sighed. "Marcus called you."
"No lie; he did. Seemed to think he could crawl my ass over things." Kerri said flatly then added. "He's wrong of course and I told him so."
Tammy smiled to herself. "I suppose that went well?"
"It's like this. I can do favors for your bunch, that's at my discretion. Those favors come with a price, it how it works. Nothing's for free kiddo. Real world lesson. I've been doing favors for you, that too, is at my discretion. One day, you'll do favors for me in trade. Nobody gets burned and we all stay friendly."
"Is it really that simple? For people like us?"
Kerri replied. "You're not required to believe me. You can be a doubting-Tammy. Here's my thoughts on it all; if you want to go into harm's way, that's up to you. I'm not going to throw you to the sharks, just because. There are limits to what you can and can't do, I know those limits. You draw the line, not me."
"Okay. Hard question; what do you think I should do, right now?" Tammy asked.
"Not such a hard question. Maintain your cover. Run your business and continue improving yourself. Log flight time, get your upgrades, get in some dive time. Start removing speculation and make it understood that you are what you say you are." Kerri suggested.
Tammy thought about that then asked. "Perhaps I should get rid of the secure phone at my office?"
"Put in an official request. Having such a phone calls attention and makes people ask questions, then get rid of it."
"I'll ask the questions, if I don't have a secure phone then some people will find it difficult to call me."
Kerri was blunt. "Exactly kiddo. The real problem is that Marcus acts like you're just a front that isn't operationally critical. That thinking is flawed, your businesses are critical to your public persona. It gives you an even stronger reason to be in the area or out of it depending on the need. I understand his thinking, he's active duty, which means nothing else to do. You, however, are not; you're a civilian and must have a back-stop. If things hadn't go the way they had in the beginning, if I read things right, you would be living a different life. You'd have been removed, sanitized, trained and ready to undertake tasking in another year or so."
Tammy was surprised. "You mean I wouldn't be a real person? Wait, that didn't sound right."
"No, you hit the nail on the head. You wouldn't be. You be an operative. Out in the cold, no safety nets and no way home. Your life would be one false portfolio after another." Kerri said.
"Like you?" Tammy asked, she wanted to know.
Kerri sighed. "No. You wouldn't on the same level as me. Yes, I go out and know I may not come back. I do have people backing me though. If I did need help, they'd come. The biggest difference between us is, I chose this Tammy. I knew what I was getting into and chose it. I wanted it. Gave up everything to have it. I've trained to insane and came out stronger than I ever thought I'd be. But I had to want it. I gave you a question a while back. It's your life, what do you want to do with it?"
Tammy thought then said. "Not be at everyone's whim, for starters. Not be disposable, the proverbial worm on the hook."
"Would you mind being eyes and ears for a while?" Kerri asked.
"Who would I watch and listen for?"
Kerri answered. "International bad guys. The kind that are bad news for both our countries. Good guys doing the right things get ignored."
"To be honest, that sounds like the best offer I've ever gotten. I'll take it." Tammy said.
"Okay then. Tomorrow starts a new day. Good luck. I'll be in touch if something comes up. Until then, handle your business." Kerri said then disconnected.
Tammy walked back to her car and returned to the lock-up. This time she took the whole bag, dropped it in the back of the car, and took it home. Several devices needed to be charged up and she had to be certain they would work if the shit was hitting the fan.
Scotland's August bank holiday weekend is at the beginning of the month and Tammy received a personal charter request for a run to Manchester on the Saturday morning. The job was pickup, deliver to Kirkwall and return same day.
She'd upgraded her licence for the Epic but it remained a personal one, not commercial, so she shouldn't carry fare paying passengers. Unfortunately the booking had specifically requested a female pilot. Tammy dressed in the skirted version of the white suit she had chosen for flying the Epic. Jim had even complimented the look, though a name plaque would really set the outfit in his opinion.
Tammy touched down ahead of schedule to refuel and taxied to the private terminal. She opened the side door and dropped the steps, finding Kerri on the tarmac.
"What are you doing here?" Tammy jumped down and gave her a hug.
"Waiting for you, of course, we're your charter. Wow, you look great. Love that suit."
"The booking never said ..... damn you got me again!"
"Can we get on, you do have the air working?"
"Sure. Sorry, but who's he?"
"The boss, Major Danningan. You heard me mention him, 'Uncle Paul'."
Tammy reached her hand over, "pleased to meet you, Sir."
"A pleasure Miss Smart. I've heard much of you."
"What are you doing here?"
"We're going to a meeting and discretion is key."
Tammy shut the door and suggested they strapped in, before returning to the cockpit to contact the tower. She was surprised when Kerri came forward and took the co-pilots seat.
"Do you fly?"
"Of course. I'm rated for rotor, fixed; single, multi and jets. Even amphibious."
Dannigan spoke up from the back. "She flew this plane a while before sending it to you."
The tower told Tammy to wait on the taxiway. It was another ten minutes before they were hurtling along the runway. They lifted into a clear sky and turned North, Tammy took the plane up to five thousand feet and set her course towards the Orkneys. Tammy was even more surprised when Kerri switched the radio channel and called out.
"Vendetta 6, India Delta aboard Tartan 1. Outbound, North." Kerri spoke over the radio.
An American male answered. "Roger that Tartan 1, we'll be waiting. Vendetta 6, out."
Tammy was surprised again, when Kerri plugged an MP3 player in. An upbeat blues type music started to play.
"Who is this?"
Kerri laughed and took the controls, bumping up the speed. "The Blasters, Dark Night."
"It would be nice if you showed some consideration for those in the back." Paul said.
Kerri smiled to Tammy and called back. "Aye, aye, Sir."
The music was turned up louder. Tammy glanced back to see him gives a thumb's up and had to giggle.
"So what is the meeting about, Kerri?"
"You should know better than to ask such questions, Tammy."
"Okay, okay. I'm kinda intrigued though."
"I'd be worried if you weren't."
They touched down at lunchtime and Tammy walked with Kerri to use the loo in the airport café, and almost walked past Colonel Sean MacTaggart.
"Excuse me, what are you doing here?"
"Waiting for you, Tammy. That's quite a look. Very nice. I'll see you back at the plane."
Kerri picked up coffees and the pair walked them back to the Epic.
"Does Paul know Sean?"
"Oh yeah, they go WAY back. How else could he get you in touch with me?"
Coffees were handed out. "I guess you want to hold the meeting in the plane?"
"That's right, could you close the door?" Paul answered.
Tammy went to step outside, but Kerri stopped her. "Where are you going?"
"Away, so you can hold your meeting in private."
"Negative, Tammy; the meeting is about you, so you stay. We have a rule; do not discuss someone's future behind their back. If they have a future then tell them, likewise if they don't have a future make sure they hear it first-hand."
She took a seat on the couch next to Kerri.
"Okay, Tamara Smart, time to discuss YOUR future."
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