"Safe As Houses"
This is the seventh book in the Tamara's Tales (formerly Tommy & Tamara) series. For the whole saga visit Tamara's Tales
Saturday 16th January 2016
Tammy stared at the secure phone as the clock edged towards seven o'clock on a freezing morning. It was bad enough having to be up by six thirty at the weekend, but she'd stayed over at Elsie's the previous night and ended up walking between the two houses well before dawn.
Finlay and Daisy had gone back to school the previous Sunday evening ready for the new term on Monday morning. The consensus was that it was safer that they stayed at the school all week but could be with Elsie, and Cathy, at weekends.
Finlay hadn't wasted any time in shedding his uniform after school on Friday, although he hadn't quite complied with the St Andrews dress code. He'd opted to wear a kilt all week with knee high socks, but had a pair of nude tights under the socks and this had been missed by almost everyone.
The conversation with Joan had been brief, especially when she discovered he was also wearing a camisole and knickers under the uniform.
"I'm more comfortable, plus it's bitterly cold out there."
"You have thermals in your room, don't you?"
"Yes, but I'll reserve those for days when I have PE outside. Right now I need to be in touch with my feminine side, plus it's not affecting anyone?"
"Maybe not, but discovery could cause you problems."
"Then I'll stay with Grandma Elsie and come to school as a female day pupil."
Joan couldn't argue with that, Elsie's offer was genuine and had been accepted by the governors as a possible future option.
One recent change had been that Finlay now had a room to himself, year 11 students normally shared but one boy had left at Christmas and that allowed Finlay to have some necessary privacy.
The secure phone finally rang at five past seven, Tammy regretted not taking a mug of coffee into the study.
"Ah good, Tammy, I've added you to the conference call."
She uttered a greeting as everyone introduced themselves. On this call were DI Kevin Edmunds, Jenny Osborne of MI5, Jonathan Meach of HM Customs & Excise and Suzie Smart. Jenny was chairing this meeting.
"I appreciate everyone being here this morning, it's important we all ensure we have up to date intelligence. Suzie will be taking notes and can secure fax them to everyone relevant after this call.
"Now, Kevin could you give your report?"
Kevin had certainly been busy, although some of his work had been hampered by the investigation into the murder of Ian Croft, the young singer found on the tow path by the recording studio.
"I had to disclose to the local DCI what I was doing in Stockport, especially as I'd arrested the fake executor. Unfortunately he wasn't keen on a Met officer on his patch, but the Chief Constable had a friendly call from the Met Commissioner later the same day to sort out the DCI's little attitude problem.
"Anyway, the video from the hidden external camera shows that Martin Gore had been waiting for someone to go in or come out of the studio. Unfortunately for Gore, Ian fought back and that gave enough time for the secure door to shut. There was no sign on the video of Martina or Penny Lavoska, Martin Gore remains at large but a still from the video has gone out on the local force's website, social media and the local TV stations."
"Thank you Kevin, what about the studio itself?"
"The company solicitors, Grants of Egbaston, had a key for the server room so we could obtain the video recording. We had also obtained a warrant to seize any servers that were relevant to the investigation. Even though the children had given permission, this was to ensure there were no implications later."
"Where are those servers now?"
"They are being delivered to the Met today."
"I'd rather if they were in Thames House?"
"Of course, but my team have the legal authority and your team doesn't."
"We'll get copies of everything?"
"Now, Tammy, how have the O'Shaughnessy children been?"
"They were back at school this week and they didn't leave the site until yesterday afternoon. There have been no breaches or other security concerns."
"What are the local police doing?"
"Not much. Martina Gore is now officially missing so her photo has been posted up locally as well as via the usual media outlets. As far as they are concerned, she went missing from Wick so the emphasis has been local. Martin Gore was on unpaid leave and is due back at the university in the middle of February. Unofficially the local force believes he could have kidnapped her but there's no evidence. If West Midlands officers are now circulating his name then it won't take long for Police Scotland to make the connection."
"Plainly we can't provide the local officers with our intel but we'll have to answer questions if officers ask. Having said that, Tammy, please don't brief anyone local, just refer them to Kevin and his team."
"What do we know from the investigations at the O'Shaughnessy solicitors?"
"It seems John is making progress but there's nothing relevant to the case yet."
"Okay, What's the latest on the unfortunate officer and his wife?"
"I understand Ben's had a breakdown and is signed off sick pending a disciplinary hearing."
"I see, please keep your distance - in both senses."
"Now, apart from the Gores and Miss Lavoska, are you aware of any other threats to the children?"
"Not at present."
"In which case I need you back in London soon, a week from now unless there's a real need for you to remain up there?"
"It is quiet right now."
Tammy thought she heard a sharp intake of breath. "I mean, there's not much happening."
"Please refrain from such observations."
"Thank you Tammy, you aren't needed for the rest of this conference."
"Oh, okay. Bye."
She put the handset down then removed the encryption key, returning it to the safe. Next stop was the loo.
She walked straight into her father. "Uh, sorry dad."
"What are you doing here, at this time?"
"A conference call, I got a text last night."
"Why at this time of the day?"
"I have no idea."
"Please, I'll be a minute."
Tammy was back at Elsie's by eight and took breakfast dressed in the joggers that she'd thrown over her nightwear. Elsie's look was one of disapproval, but no words were offered. Florence was there, with no trace of Finlay.
"What have you done with your hair Florence?"
Her hair was now a deep auburn, as opposed to the light brown of a day before.
"I dyed it this morning."
At the end of the table, Elsie was shaking her head so Tammy dropped the subject, clearly that was more of a concern than her fashion faux-pas. Tammy didn't rush her breakfast but didn't stay any longer than was necessary.
Once showered Tammy opted for a long woollen skirt with a jumper, if she had to go out then she might as well be comfortable. Her mobile rang just before ten.
"Sorry about earlier, Jenny wasn't convinced you were cleared for a few things."
"The operation we just executed, we have Martina."
"Oh, that's excellent, but why couldn't I be told?"
"You're too close to her, there was a risk of leaking via the school if you said anything."
"Hang on, is there any evidence that I've done that?"
"No, and please don't think I agreed with Jenny. She's aware Thurso is a small community and the issue with Ben Franklin's wife has caused her concerns."
"I understand, Kevin, but she's never been here and you have!"
"Hey, you're 'preaching to the converted' Tammy."
"Okay, okay, where was Martina?"
"In a B&B in Egbaston, very close to her parents' home. The B&B owners recognised her as they had known John and Anita Gore, even though Martina had used an alias."
"So, was it difficult?"
"No, she's at Brierley Hill Police Station helping us with enquiries."
"What will happen to her?"
"That depends on the interviews and whether she's committed an offence."
"Okay, what about the other two?"
"Right now she claims she doesn't know where they are. We've left an officer at the guest house in case either Martin or Penny go there."
"Fair enough. Why was Jonathan Meach on the conference call, he never said a word?"
"Sorry, but that's off limits for now."
"Does it concern Caithness Marine?"
"Sorry Tammy, I can't answer that."
"Okay, thanks anyway Kevin."
"Not at all. The news about Martina remains confidential, understood?"
"Yes, Kevin, understood."
Florence wanted to go shopping but Tammy wasn't certain it was sensible on security grounds, whilst Elsie had effectively grounded the sixteen year old. Cathy caught Tammy and pulled her into the study.
"Don't say anything but I gave Florence the dye and helped her this morning."
"She wanted a change and I couldn't see why not, it's not a huge difference in colour."
"But there's much more body, there's no way it'll lay flat for school!"
"Come on Cathy, what's really going on?"
"Mum wouldn't let me dye my hair when I was Florence's age, I wanted to go blonde."
"You are blonde!"
"Courtesy of a bottle! Back then I had mousey brown hair, quite similar to Florence."
"She doesn't want to go blonde?"
"She thinks she'll go dumb!"
Tammy giggled loudly. "You said Elsie objected?"
"Yes, but I did it anyway, she grounded me for a week!"
"So, is this payback?"
"Maybe. Anyway it's a wash-in, wash-out dye so by Monday it will just look like it's been conditioned."
"Yep, don't tell mum."
"Don't worry, your secret's safe with me. How is Elsie at the moment, I've hardly seen her this week?"
"She's weaker, the morphine has been increased."
"Oh, not good."
"No, the doctors say she has weeks, not months."
The two sat down and took each-others' hand. "Look, Cathy, if there's anything I can do?"
"There's nothing any of us can do right now. Elsie has planned everything and left strict instructions, very strict instructions."
Tammy's eyes filled with tears, "I don't know what I would do without her."
"Neither do I, Tammy.
The rest of Saturday slipped past. Given that Florence was grounded Tammy didn't leave the house either, but they still managed some shopping using Tammy's laptop. Naturally Florence wanted the new clothes the next day but was disappointed when told the delivery wouldn't arrive before Thursday.
"That's not fair."
"You won't be wearing any of this before next weekend in any case!"
"If you get a delivery from Prettiest In Pink at the school, you might have some explaining to do?"
"We didn't order from them."
"The same principle applies, we've only used retailers that specialise in womenswear. What if one of the masters decided to do a room inspection?"
"Only Mrs Smart will do that."
"That's a temporary agreement, it does not stop the Head or one of the other senior staff going into your room."
"Let me guess, you left a few things out?"
"I might have done."
"Then you might get away with it, but you need to be careful. Some of the boys in year 11 won't treat you kindly if they found out. I know, I found out who my enemies were really quickly."
"You weren't staying at the school were you?"
"No, not after I transitioned. I stayed here each night until we had our house next door."
"I think I want to do that."
"Wait until sixth form, if you can. In any case, you're a part time girl."
"Or a part time boy?"
"Is a glass half full or half empty?"
"It depends which way you look at it?"
"Indeed, and most teenage boys can't look at anything from more than one angle."
"You're not like most teenage boys."
John Hibbert arrived back in Thurso after lunch, having left Birmingham the previous teatime, he reported back to Tammy, Cathy and Elsie.
"Tanya will kill me, coming here first before I go home!"
"Never mind that, what do you know?"
"The real executor never really started the process, beyond issuing the main bankers and the life insurance firm with a death certificate."
"So you started again?"
"Yes, I put a search out to all the main banks and it turned up an account in Geneva. That was a pig to deal with!"
"Swiss banking laws are very strict."
"Well, I told Pru what was going on and she told your dad. It turns out he used to deal with that bank so he gave me a name."
"It was a slush fund, just over half a million quid."
"Yes, there were some very strange transfers into and out of the account, large amounts so definitely not clothes shopping."
"Several life policies, they were covered by the UN as contractors but had their own professional insurance."
"What about the house?"
"It's on the market, we've moved the remaining contents into storage. There was a small safe in the main bedroom floor."
"Oh, what have you done with it?"
"It was only found yesterday so it's at the solicitor's office until we get a locksmith to it."
"Bloody hell John, no!"
Tammy hurriedly called Kevin to update him.
"Why didn't he say something yesterday! Damn! I'll get hold of the solicitor."
It was a few minutes later when Kevin called back. "The solicitor says his office has been broken into. I'm calling it in and going there myself."
"John, who knew about the safe?"
"The solicitor and the removals firm, obviously."
"Did anyone else see it?"
"Well, they didn't cover it up when it was carried out and a few folk in the street might have got a look when it was put in the boot of my hire car."
"Why didn't you call me, or DI Kevin Edmunds?"
"You make it sound like a spy novel, the way you're questioning me, Tammy?"
"You're not far from the truth there."
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