Poison: Chapter Six

The Adventures of Nathan Sunnybank and Joe Greenfield
Book One: Poison
Chapter Six

IN the dark of her own bedroom, Amy felt restless and found sleep a distant memory. She shuffled under her duvet and ran the events of the past few weeks through her head and thought about the sudden arrival of Joe and Nathan.
“What is so important about TJ’s bag?” she thought for the umpteenth time.
“Is it even the right bag?” she asked herself.
So yet again, she turned on her bedside light and emptied the contents of the small bag onto her bed.
A key fob with three door keys and a small locker key, a crumpled piece of paper with the numbers 45176 written on it, a pink lip salve, a little pink fuzzball, two photos of Sam, a library card, a £10 note and a 264MB flashcard from a camera, items she had seen TJ fumble through many times after watching a movie together downstairs.
Nothing seemed out of order, she thought, although the number 45176 started Amy’s head spinning again for answers.
It was too short to be a phone number and one digit too many to be a cashpoint number… so what was it?
Then the flashcard dodged into her mind.
TJ had taken her cameras with her, so this flashcard was surely unimportant she thought.
Or was it?
With something approaching divine inspiration, Amy sat bolt upright in bed.
And with a new sense of urgency she decided to see what might be stored on the card.
She went downstairs, creeping slowly to avoid disturbing the boys. Amy sat at the PC and inserted the card into the reader slot at the foot of the computer tower.
After what seemed ages, the screen told her that the card had 102 photographs stored on it, and begged the question whether she would like to copy or view them.
Amy chose the latter and blinked as dozens of boozy party pictures and holiday snaps from the previous Christmas reeled across the screen.
“Huh, nothing unusual,” she whispered, and began to admit defeat.
But then came four pictures she didn’t recognise.
The first was of a large Victorian building – which may have been a library or museum or some other grand establishment.
The second was of a large hall lined with books. Presumably, thought Amy, it must be inside the same building.
The third and fourth pictures showed a line of grey filing cabinet type lockers and one locker in particular with a small pink fuzzball hanging from its metal handle.
A fuzzball, just like the one in TJ’s bag.
Amy’s mind raced… why would TJ take photographs of books or lockers?
Was it significant?
Amy removed the card from the reader and switched off the PC.
She ambled back upstairs and climbed into her cold bed.

Back in the drawing room at Greenfield Mansion, bed was the last thing on the minds of the assembled adults and two police officers sipping tea on the Chesterfield sofa.
Lady Greenfield and Nicolas had supplied the officers with photos of their sons and recounted for the third time their discoveries of that afternoon.
“Well,” said the greying sergeant, “I think as it is now well past 10pm, we can assume that they are late in.”
“Late in!” fumed Lady Greenfield. “I have told you a hundred times, Joe hasn’t been seen by anyone here since this morning. And he is never home later than nine o’clock, ever!
“Now are you going to start finding our sons,” she demanded.
But before either police officer could answer, Nicolas interjected: “And Nathan is just eleven-years-old… do you have any idea what is happening? We have two young boys and one with over £400 in his pocket and they have both disappeared with packed bags. For Cripes sake do something…. or we will!”
“Steady on Mr Sunnybank, please get a grip,” said the Sergeant. “It isn’t going to help your boys if we go about this half cock!”
Nicolas felt like punching the stupid sergeant, but Felicity squeezed his hand tightly and whispered: “Let them do their job”.
“We will start a Missing Person file immediately and distribute the photos of your sons to every station and newspaper in North Wales and the adjoining English counties” said the sergeant, with some more urgency.
“Don’t worry we will find them,” he added as he and the younger PC stood and made their way to front door.
As they made to leave, the younger officer turned and winked at Lady Greenfield. “We’ll find them, Ma’am, don’t you worry yourself.”
The door closed behind them and Felicity and Nicolas glared in anger at each other as they fought to say “Blinkin’ useless policemen!” first!
“Right,” said Nicolas, “I don’t care what those boys in blue may or may not do, I can’t sit here while my little Nathan is Lord knows where!”
“I agree,” stammered a flustered Felicity, as the two parents made their way back into the drawing room.
“Bob!” shouted her ladyship.
With that Tony started from reading a copy of last month’s Uncut music magazine and Bob the butler appeared red-faced at the drawing room door.
“Please pack an overnight bag and ask cook to prepare sandwiches and a flask for Mr Sunnybank and me… oh and we’ll take the Range Rover,” she added with authority.
Bob turned obediently and disappeared into the hallway.
“But where are we going to start?” asked Nicolas. “We have no leads at all!”
“And where is Clara?” asked Tony.
With that Clara’s mobile phone ironically buzzed in Tony’s jacket pocket. Tony reached for the phone and glanced at the new text from an unknown number.

Meanwhile, in the single bedroom of a dingy bed and breakfast near Shrewsbury Prison, a restless Clara was fumbling with the buttons of a cheap Pay As You Go mobile phone she had bought from a shop near the railway station.
“Gosh, this thing is out of the ark,” she muttered, “The keys are like blinkin’ bullets and the screen is tiny… guess that’s what you get for a tenner.”
Clara was still mulling over what she would like to do to her brother Joe when she eventually got her hands on him. But she was also intensely puzzled by the secrecy of Joe and his friend Nathan and why they had travelled to this hideous market town without telling anyone.
“Blinkin kids,” she said.
Eventually Clara worked out the basics of the new mobile phone and sent a test text message to her proper mobile back at Gresburton. It was the only number she could remember.
It was a simple message which read: “If you read this, mum, I am okay and will be home tomorrow. ❤ Clara xxx”.
She rolled over and closed her eyes to try and get some sleep.
“How stupid am I forgetting to take my phone,” she thought.

Two streets away in the black BMW, a blonde haired man, aged about 35, was smoking his ninth cigarette of the night and had wrapped a tartan blanket over his lap. The car reeked of the stale smell of the remains of a cold Chinese take-way and cigarette smoke.
“Ya, the girl thinks she is safe, but she won’t get away,” he murmured to himself.
He looked down at his laptop and touched the remote button to begin a conference call.
On the screen the face of a thin grey haired man with a sallow complexion and wire rimmed spectacles appeared.
“Any news Klaus?” he snapped.
“Nothing yet, Sir, but we have the girl under close surveillance and she now has two young boys for company,” answered the blonde haired man.
“Do we know who the kids are?” snapped the grey haired man.
“No, Sir,” came the reply.
“Well find out… and dispose of them if you must. Oh and Klaus, get hold of that bag ASAP or you will have me to answer to!” the other man ordered.
“And where is Rolf?”
“He is in a guest house nearby. We have booked a room there under assumed names,” answered Klaus. “He will relieve me in two hours.”
“Good… report back at 8am your time,” the grey haired man ordered.
At that the screen went blank as the older man switched off his connection.
Outside the car, in the darkness of shrubbery on Severn Avenue a large grey haired animal was quietly sniffing the rear door and boot of the BMW. The animal’s green eyes watched the blonde haired man with suspicion.
Then as quietly has it had arrived the animal sloped off back across the road and down the avenue to nestle back under the laurel bush next to number 24.

Inside number 24, Amy still could not sleep and had gone back downstairs. She had made herself a large mug of hot chocolate and was sipping the drink while puzzling over the four photos on TJ’s flashcard and the relevance of the number 45176.
“I must be going mad,” she thought. “There is something obvious here and I can’t see it for looking.”
Upstairs Joe and Nathan slept soundly, while outside two green eyes watched their bedroom window intently.

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Poem: Goldstone memories

Kit Napier in the wind swings the ball in
Cha Cha Cha Cha Livesey we chanted
Big Alex rises in the fog of the night
A goalbound header he glances
Tiger Tawse races down the left wing
Behind him you can hear the North Stand sing:
“It’s Brighton Hove Albion
Brighton Hove Albion FC
We’re by far the greatest team
The world has ever seen”

Sully intercepts a long floated pass
Ball played wide as Mellor advances
Beamish races towards the goal
And tucks away the sweetest of chances
Tony Towner surges down the right wing
Behind him you can hear the North Stand sing:
“It’s Brighton Hove Albion
Brighton Hove Albion FC
We’re by far the greatest team
The world has ever seen”

Lawro takes the ball from the edge of the box
Horton signals a move they have planned
Passes to Ryan who chips it to Ward
And he scores in a Goldstone wonderland
Teddy Maybank sprints down the right wing
Behind him you can hear the North Stand sing:
“It’s Brighton Hove Albion
Brighton Hove Albion FC
We’re by far the greatest team
The world has ever seen”

A Jimmy Case thunderbolt bulges their net
Steve Foster ploughs through the sand
The ball swerves forward and Smith must score
But it’s Robinson’s shot they can not withstand
Gary Stevens runs down the left wing
Behind him you can hear the North Stand sing:
“It’s Brighton Hove Albion
Brighton Hove Albion FC
We’re by far the greatest team
The world has ever seen”

Poem: Tempus Fugit

I was 12 years old and still a boy
You were grey and old
Born while Victoria was still queen
Pictures show you beautiful and bold
In a life of a thousand summers
I watched you age and slip away

I was 22 and nearly a man
You were great and good
My mad and brilliant granddad
Who conjured toys from wire and wood
In a life of a thousand summers
I watched you age and slip away

I was 25 and freshly wed
You were frail and meek
I never knew you young or strong
But your Geordie manner was unique
In a life of a thousand summers
I watched you age and slip away

I was 52 and beaten down
You were my strength and shield
My self-same dad larger than life
Too often I left my love concealed
In a life of a thousand summers
I watched you age and slip away

I am now 58 and have lived a life
In the mirror I am old and grey
The boy I was has long since passed
And time will not delay
In a life of a thousand summers
I know I too will age and slip away

In a land of wolves and thieves

During the past couple of months I have republished a selection of my newspaper articles written while I was working as an investigative journalist in Scotland and North East England. The first looked at the likely governmental conspiracy over the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001 another at the secrecy of the Bilderberg organisation, a third was a piece about the top secret Aurora aircraft, the fourth looked at big cats at large in the UK and the fifth was an investigation into the mysterious death of Scottish Nationalist leader Willie McRae. Another looked at the extent of 40-year cover-up on exposure of British servicemen to A-bomb tests and the last was a piece about secret dumps of deadly Sarin gas in the sea waters off Scotland. And the last one investigated very strange links between BNFL at Sellafield and genetic research into human embryos.
I now turn to something a little more mundane but something that probably many more readers… mailshot scams! This one was UK based, but I know from experience that many operate out of Canada and the Netherlands. This was published in 2001.

AN international scam that rips off thousands of householders every year is operating from a location on Tyneside.
A Chronicle investigation has found that Lunor Marketing International (LMI), which runs a string of bogus get-rich-quick schemes, is using a South Tyneside firm to handle its mail.
It is also hiding behind a PO Box number, which the Chronicle has traced to a flat on Newcastle’s Quayside.
LMI, which also trades as the National Fulfilment Centre and is believed to be a Brazilian firm, targets British consumers – often pensioners – with its mailshot scams.
Cleverly-worded letters are sent to homes across the country promising the recipients that in return for a “processing fee” of between £10 and £20, they are in with a chance of winning up to £20,000.
But unsuspecting consumers tempted by the too-good-to-be-true offers are unlikely to ever be sent a big money prize. All they are ever likely to receive is a piece of worthless, cheap jewellery.
Pensioner Frank Perkins, 70, of Cramlington, is one of many victims. He sent £20 to the National Fulfilment Centre, registered at the Newcastle PO Box address, and waited for his cash windfall. All he got was two cheap necklaces.
Mr Perkins said: “The stones in the necklace are the size of a pinhead and aren’t worth much. I get at least two of these types of letters every day from all over the world, but I thought this one was genuine because it had a local address.
“They should be stopped. The Government, or somebody, should do something.”
Although LMI has been blasted by trading standards officers across the country and rapped by the Advertising Standards Authority, consumer protection agencies and the Government are unable to take action as the firm is based abroad.
The Chronicle discovered there is a London office of LMI, run by a man called Tom Alvarez, but he is a difficult man to get to speak to.
Instead, LMI uses an Essex mailing company – Direct Solutions International (DSI) – which runs an office in Jarrow’s Viking industrial park on behalf of LMI and other companies.
DSI also has a string of high-profile clients, including Northern Electric, Help the Aged and Comic Relief.
John Merrett, assistant director of the UK’s Commercial Crime Bureau, confirmed such scams are often based abroad: “These people often target high-profile companies as middle-men because it makes their operation appear more credible.”
When the Chronicle contacted Mike Thomas, DSI group general manager at Jarrow, he said to have “absolutely no idea” about what LMI was doing.
A former employee of DSI at Jarrow claimed he was unhappy with the type of work he had to do and left his job.
The man, who asked not to be named, was one of a team of people employed to open LMI’s post – directed to Jarrow via a number of PO Box addresses – collect the cash and despatch the tacky prizes.
He believed unsuspecting householders, mainly the elderly, are duped out of thousands of pounds every year by companies such as LMI.
“A lot of the replies I dealt with were from old people,” he said. “Some of their stories were so sad. They’d write that they were pensioners on so much a week and they thought they’d won all this money.
“In the entire time I was handling LMI mail I wasn’t aware of anyone winning a big cash prize.”
Dave O’Brien, trading standards manager in Newcastle, warned people not to send any money off.
He said: “They are very common scams and people should just ignore them – put the letters in the bin and keep your money.”
Richard White, a trading standards officer in the London borough of Havering, which covers Rainham, in Essex, where DSI’s head office is based, said mailshots are not illegal, but described them as being ‘despicable’ and said they should be banned.
DSI defended its involvement with LMI, saying while it was not responsible for the mailshot contents, it did aim to ensure they met industry codes of practice. A spokesman said: “LMI has guaranteed repayment of any money submitted by consumers subsequently disappointed and we’re working with them, as our client, to ensure this promise is fulfilled.”