Operation Camilla

By: Tabitha Ormiston-Smith


Blackman could no longer restrain himself, and dissolved into giggles that felt unmanly, but were unstoppable. He sat jiggling in his chair, tears of laughter rolling down his face, gesturing helplessly with one hand. After a shocked gasp, the girl resumed howling and fled into the lavatory. The sound of her sobs cut off abruptly as the soundproofed door closed behind her. Blackman subsided into chuckles as he opened the McAllister file. Lead and collar, he murmured to himself, shaking his head. Yarralove.com. God almighty.

***

Tammy sighed as she booted up her computer. Writing a novel was turning out to be a lot more work than she’d imagined, and a lot less fun. She’d been at it for three months now, and it was turning out to be rather a slog. After she’d been instrumental in Ben’s catching that horrible drug dealer, she’d decided she was a natural to write detective fiction, what with her Fine Arts degree and her practical experience, but as it turned out, you needed a lot more than a good idea and knowing your way around Proust. She’d got off to a good start, with the basic book drafted in six weeks, but when she had read through it, she’d been horribly disappointed. Not only did it not read well, but it was far too short for a full-length novel. Now she was adding another skin to the onion, layering in subplots and character exposition, and her initial enthusiasm had waned to the point where, some days, she didn’t even look at it. The worst of it was that the book seemed to have swallowed up her whole life. She hadn’t done any more work on her awful fixer-upper house since she’d started writing it, and it had been a whole three months now. She hadn’t even finished the sitting room; it was painted, but that was all, and her bedroom, where she now sat, was furnished only with a mattress on the floor and a still-packed cardboard box to hold her alarm clock, besides, of course, the cheap card table and folding chair where she was presently sitting. Perhaps it was her surroundings that were the problem.

She let her eyes glaze over, forgetting the unfinished book as she thought about how she’d like her bedroom to be. All white would be lovely and peaceful. She’d buy some paint on Saturday, she decided. Having done the sitting room, painting was one thing she really knew how to do. And paint was cheap, unlike furniture and curtains. She certainly had enough cash to buy a big tin of white and some primer. She could move her makeshift bed into the second bedroom while she did it, and that would keep Tom away from the work too; she didn’t need black fur floating through the air and sticking to wet paint. Perhaps she could get Ben to help? It was such a couples thing to do, painting a room together. But he was leaving on Sunday night to go on that computer crime course, and would be away for three weeks, so if she wanted him to help, she wouldn’t be able to get started until after that. Tammy liked to get on with things as soon as she thought of them. She could have it all finished, easily, by the time Ben got back, and the mattress moved back in. Perhaps she could paint the floor white, too. Could you get paint for floors? Well, she would start with the walls and think about that later.





CHAPTER TWO





Blackman arrived back at his office at half past three, feeling mellow after a bottle and a half of Cabernet Sauvignon. He had told the story about Shelley’s boyfriend to three of his cronies at the Commercial Club, to roars of laughter. No doubt it would get about, but what the hell – she was a miserable whiny bitch anyway, and he didn’t suppose it would make a lot of difference to her constant snivelling.

That wasn’t the best thing, though, although he’d had a fine time at lunch. The best thing was the idea he’d had as he was driving unsteadily back from the club. The idea that would rejuvenate his ailing practice. The idea that would generate family law matters, and more family law matters, pretty much, as far as he could see, on demand.

Ignoring the still-weepy Shelley hunched over her desk, he went into his office and closed the door. Pressing the intercom button on his phone, he barked, ‘No calls this afternoon.’ He settled back in his chair, crossed his hands over his stomach and stared at the ceiling. There were a number of details to be worked out.