The Adventures of Nathan Sunnybank and Joe Greenfield
Book 1: Poison
BACK at Greenfield Mansion, Lady Felicity was nibbling on some sushi and celery while engaging Joy in meaningless chatter about the weather and garden ornaments.
“Do you think it is too early for another quaff of champers, Joy?” she asked.
Joy looked at her ladyship carefully and smiled.
“I think perhaps it might be better to wait until this evening for another glass, Felicity,” she replied.
Joy was always very careful when to address her ladyship by her proper name, and now seemed a quiet and good moment.
“Yes, I do feel a bit squiffy,” said Felicity and munched another langoustine while gazing wistfully at her newly potted geraniums.
Joy looked at the wine chiller and thought for the umpteenth time that her ladyship had not been the same since the day of his lordship’s accident.
The accident – as they had all learned to call it – was now five years ago, but it had had a profound effect on all of them, and Felicity most of all.
Her ladyship blamed herself constantly for it.
But after all, she had always warned his lordship to check his shotguns were not loaded before he cleaned them.
And it was in such innocence on that autumn day that she wandered into his study and asked him to pull the curtains before he retired to bed.
The word “pull” was so unfortunate.
By the time the ambulance got Lord Greenfield to the hospital, there was little they could do to save his left foot.
He was hospitalised for over a month and endured many more months of painful physiotherapy, before an artificial prosthetic foot was fitted.
He hated it and his tempers became more furious as the weeks and months passed.
He seemed to blame his wife for it all.
“Why the heck did you shout ‘pull’?” he often screamed.
And it was at this time that Lady Felicity started to lose herself in the kitchen and long chats with Joy.
It could not go on, and the final straw came sometime the following spring when a hobbling Lord Greenfield disappeared forever.
He said he needed to search for something, but did not know what, and as far as the family was concerned, he was still searching.
Felicity suddenly seemed to perk up.
“I know,” she said, “I think I will do a little painting, the weather is rather lovely.”
And without even a glance in Joy’s direction, she breezed out of the scullery door and into the garden.
As she passed the stable block, she thought momentarily about giving the horses an extra feed, but decided to venture forth and paint instead.
“I wonder what Joe and Clara are up to,” she mused quietly to herself.
Then she remembered that Clara was going to drive into town for more cello lessons with that rather strapping boy Tony, whom she had met at university.
“Funny,” thought Felicity, “I never knew Clara was even musical, until she met Tony.”
And she guessed that Joe would be playing with his friend Nathan at his small but rather quaint, Landfill Cottage.
So Felicity wandered into her studio at the end of the herb garden, gathered some paints, brushes, a bottle of water, paper and easel and somehow balancing all the items under her arms, set off towards the fields.
She had something of a spring in her step as she tripped through the long grass towards a knoll by the coppice on the western meadows.
At a suitable point Felicity stopped and sat cross-legged on the grass to view the landscape she had longed to paint.
Her decision to turn her artistic skills to landscapes was, she hoped, a pivotal point in her so-far frustrated artistic career.
As she assembled her brushes in a plastic pot and poured a little water into another, she noticed something small, bright and red in among the grass.
“Oh blimey, a jelly bean!” she laughed. “I wonder how that got there?”
She bent forward to put on her painting specs and noticed something far more significant and curious.
Glinting brightly against the sun in the longer grass was something large and metallic.
Again she leaned forward and started in puzzlement as she picked up a long high powered torch.
“Joe’s best torch!” she exclaimed.
“Whatever has my little Joe been doing out here in a field with a torch?”
Felicity thought for a moment and decided to quiz her son about her discovery at tea time.
She sat back and began to sketch the view across to Gresburton Station with a fine brush.
Less than one mile away at Landfill Cottage, Nicolas Sunnybank was putting the finishing touches to chapter 12 of his new romantic novel, which he had lovingly given a working title of Reasons to Be Cheerful.
For Nicolas, writing romantic novels was as close to love as he believed he would ever get, after his former wife Elizabeth left the family home to pursue her weird passion in witchcraft some four years earlier.
“Need another cup of tea,” he thought, as he stretched his legs and blinked at the sun now shining through the south window.
He ambled lazily into the kitchen and switched on the kettle.
“Wonder what Nathan is up to?” he thought.
“He’s been mighty quiet this morning. Bet he is over at Joe’s, playing.”
With that, the kettle made a whistling sound and Nicolas grabbed a mug and tea bag and poured himself a cup of Darjeeling.
Mug in hand he walked out into the conservatory, looked at his bedraggled tomato plants, glanced absently at a crumpled piece of notepaper on the table and carried on, into the garden.
Once outside Nicolas sat on a veranda chair, brushed his mop of greying hair back with his right hand, and mentally began a minor battle over whether to mow the lawn or plan the next chapter of his new book.
The tea tasted good and the sun was warm and burned his faded grey jeans.
Mulling over the choice of lawn or book, the frustrated author – and equally frustrated musician – decided that he needed another option for what ought to have been lunchtime.
“I really could do with looking for new Fender Strat,” he thought. “Really regret giving my old one to Bess.
“Yep,” he mused. “Let’s have a browse on Ebay… not enjoyed that guilty pleasure for a very long time.”
And with that thought fixed firmly in his head, Nicolas stood up and ambled back into the house.
In his study, he switched on his old PC and waited for the laboriously long satellite broadband connection to hook in.
Once online he quickly found his internet auction favourite and logged in, using his name and well-worn password Romance.
“Wow, eight Ebay messages for me,” he exclaimed, almost out loud.
The first two messages were the usual Ebay customer notices, which he rarely, if ever, read.
But the third one intrigued him.
“Congratulations, you have successfully sold item E2378910. The winning bidder will pay you £98 by Paypal transfer”.
“What is this? Must be spam,” thought Nicolas instantly.
But the reality clicked in and he decided that any hacker would need a hell of a lot of information to get into his Ebay account and sell items for him.
The next message told him that item E2378910 was an Xbox game station and the winning bidder from Colchester had already transferred the cash into his Paypal account.
The fifth message was equally stunning: “Congratulations, you have successfully sold item E2379321. The winning bidder will pay you £325 by Paypal transfer”.
The sixth message told him that item E2379321 was a Lake Placid Blue Fender Telecaster guitar and the winning bidder from Bolton had transferred the cash into his Paypal account.
Nicolas froze and swallowed deeply.
He leapt from the desk chair and ran upstairs to the spare bedroom.
In the corner of the room, where his Lake Placid Blue Fender Telecaster had always stood, was a dusty empty space.
A lump developed in his throat as he turned across the landing into Nathan’s bedroom.
Crumpled clothes, some Warhammer figures, a plethora of books and old Playstation games littered the floor.
But under the old TV set, a box sized space with a circle of dust around filled the gap where his son’s new X-Box had been.
Nicolas’s mind went into overdrive.
“Nathan, Nathan!” he yelled in fury and confusion.
The usually languid author ran downstairs, back to his study.
He again sat at the PC, logged out of Ebay and into his Paypal account.
Quickly he chose ‘Recent Transactions’ and stared in shock as he read the credit entries of £98 and £325, totalling £423, less Paypal charges it left a balance of £411.
But there underneath, just three days ago was a debit transfer of exactly £400 to a Halifax Building Society account. The account number was imprinted on Nicolas’s brain… it was Nathan’s account.
“Nathan, Nathan!” yelled Nicolas again, now adding franticness to his increasing anger.
“Just wait till I get my hands on you!”
More than 30 miles away the 326 train from Gresburton was pulling into Shrewsbury station.
Two excited, but quite nervous boys were about to begin stage two of their adventure.
The eyes still watched.