Forever Young

MY eldest son has just celebrated his 30th birthday and suddenly I feel very old indeed.
Meanwhile, my youngest boy is still only 12 years-old. He provides a natural counter-balance as I stumble through my late 50s.
To state that he keeps me young is a barbed understatement.
My life revolves around him and my wife, as in turns we fetch and carry him to rugby, football, cricket, taekwondo and choir. And as parents we cheer his successes and chastise when needed. Coming up in the next seven days is a school Oscar ceremony (where he has won an Oscar!) a pop choir event, a village summer fete at his old primary school… oh and a trip to the dentist!
But his very being also teaches me my real age. He can run circles around me with any new technology, I cannot understand the music he listens to, far less name any of the artists and I am constantly exhausted.
Would I change things?
I wrote out the lyrics and recorded this song by Bob Dylan for all my beautiful children. So Ben, Tan, Rhia, Shannon and Nathan… this is for you… and me!

Poison: Chapter Seven

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

BACK at Greenfield Mansion, Tony read the text on Clara’s phone and was about to alert Lady Felicity to the message when Joy came running into the drawing room.
“Ma’am, ma’am, Bob was telling me… but anyway I thought you ought to know,” she blurted. “You need to know…”
“What do I need to know?” demanded Lady Felicity, while the other adults stared at the young scullery maid.
“Well, I should have said earlier… but when I went to feed the horses at tea-time I noticed something really odd in the stable store, so I went back just now to have another look,” hurried Joy.
“Well what is odd?” her ladyship demanded again, “We are in a bit of rush here, we have two boys to find and a 17-year-old young lady who has some explaining to do… cello lessons, my foot,” she added, glaring at Tony.
“At the back of the stable store I noticed the bags of pony nuts had been moved and I have never seen it before, but in the back wall there is an old door,” continued Joy.
“Well, the door was open and there seems to be a passage beyond it… and I also noticed the tin you keep the cash in for the farrier was open too!”
“Anything else?” asked Lady Felicity, feeling exasperated by Joy’s interruption.
“Yes,” answered Joy. “Clara’s favourite fleece was hanging on the saddle rack… you know the one she was wearing this morning.”
“Oh my God, Joy, why didn’t you mention this sooner?” retorted her Ladyship, before turning to stare daggers in Tony’s direction.
“Well young Anthony, do you know anything about this?” she asked. “It appears you and my daughter have not been exactly honest about the music lessons.”
“No Ma’am, I do not. I haven’t seen Clara since last night… I mean since yesterday afternoon,” he added, correcting himself.
“I am as worried as you are… and for Master Joe too… oh and young Nathan.
“But I think you ought to read this.”
For the second time Tony was about to show her Ladyship the text message, but decided to wait until he had time to talk to Clara on his own.
“Read what?” asked Lady Felicity.
“Oh, it’s nothing really, it can wait,” replied Tony.
Nicolas, who had been a silent observer for the past few minutes suddenly interrupted and suggested they ought to investigate the stable store more closely.
“And we really ought to decide where we are going if we are packing up the car,” he added. “Everything is getting a bit random.”
“Yes, yes,” admitted Felicity, “It is all a bit of a whirlwind at the moment. We do need to get our heads around this.”
With that she grabbed Joe’s silver coloured flashlight and ordered Tony to help Bob get a few essentials packed for their as-yet unplanned journey.
“Nicolas,” she asked quietly, looking into his eyes for reassurance, “do you mind accompanying me to the stable store?”
And turning to the scullery maid, she added more brusquely: “Joy, you had better come too.”
Quickly the trio of adults made their way downstairs to the kitchen and out the back door to the stable block.
A horse whinnied as they opened the side door and another stamped a foot on the floor.
A large black stallion peered curiously over its door at the frenzied humans invading his space at night. Above the door was the name Black Sabbath.
“Ah that’s Clara’s new pony,” exclaimed Lady Felicity, noticing Nicolas look at the horse and the sign. “The store room is this way,” she added, leading them along a passage next to the fourth stable.
Joy unlocked the stable store and switched on the light – a single unshaded bulb hanging from the ceiling illuminated the eight foot square wood panelled room.
It was as Joy had described.
In front of them five bags of pony nuts were stacked to one side of an old pine door, which stood partly ajar. Next to the door a rusty and empty money tin lay open on a shelf and to the right, a girl’s beige coloured fleece was hanging on the saddle rack.
“Okay,” said Nicolas, “Let’s see what is beyond this door.”

Back in the main house, Tony had found a quiet corner in the lobby and sat down to reply to Clara’s text message.
“It is Tony. Where are you and what has happened?” he typed quickly.
In an instant Clara replied: “I am okay, but could really do with you here, can you ring me cos I don’t have much credit on this useless phone.”
Tony put Clara’s mobile phone down on the lobby table and retrieved his own phone from his jacket pocket. Looking down at Clara’s pink mobile he copied the new number into his own phone’s memory and tapped dial.
Within seconds he and Clara were talking quietly to each other.
Clara outlined how her “b******” little brother had locked her in the stable store and how after an hour of banging and shouting she had eventually discovered the old door. She had used a farrier’s claw hammer to prise the lock and open it.
“It was really creepy,” she elaborated, “But I used dad’s army flashlight and found this amazing passage to the old air-raid shelter at the other side of the house.
“It is in remarkably good condition, but very damp and smelly,” she continued. “And the shelter door was locked… and it was while I was trying to open it that I saw blinkin’ Joe and his friend Nathan running across the meadow towards the railway station. They both had bags on their backs.
“Anyway I went back to the store, grabbed some money from mum’s tin and used the hammer again to open the door.”
“I had to follow them, cos Joe has been acting really spooky for over a week now.”
“Wow,” said Tony, “A real adventure girl, hey! Now slow down… where are you now?”
Clara explained how she had followed the boys to Shrewsbury and the bed and breakfast, adding that she did not have enough cash for another night.
“I really need you Tony,” she pleaded.
“Don’t worry darling, I will be there in an hour,” he replied.
“No, you had better wait until the morning because the landlady is horrendous and she will never let you in,” warned Clara. “Oh and can you bring some clean clothes and my toothbrush too. And please don’t tell mum where I am, she’ll have a fit… just let her know I am safe.”
Tony took note of the name and address of Clara’s bed and breakfast before hurrying out to his red Porsche Boxster and driving into town to his apartment to gather some things.

Back at the stables, Nicolas, Felicity and Joy had discovered the passage to the old air-raid shelter and the open door onto the paddock.
“What has been going on here?” asked Lady Felicity.
She suddenly gasped as something caught her eye. She reached out and took a small torn piece of floral fabric from the rusty broken catch of the shelter door.
“Well blow me down, if I am not mistaken this is a piece of Clara’s Monsoon blouse I bought for her birthday… and look – this appears to be blood!”
Nicolas took the piece of cotton cloth from Felicity’s hand and examined it closely.
“I think there is a lot more going on here than meets the eye,” he said.
Turning to Joy he asked: “Was the stable store locked or unlocked when you went to feed the horses?”
“It were locked, Sir,” replied the scullery maid, “That’s why I thought the open old door on the back wall was strange.”
“Well it seems that this door here in the shelter has been forced open from the inside,” deduced Nicolas.
“Maybe your daughter Clara became locked in the stable store and found her way out,” he added looking at an increasingly nervous Felicity.
“But that store door can only be locked from the outside,” her Ladyship offered, “And more importantly, where is she now… and where is my little Joe too?”
“And Nathan,” added Nicolas, “I suggest we go back to the house and question young Tony more closely.”
Felicity agreed and together with Joy they followed Nicolas back to the main house.

Once in the lobby they were met by an even more red-faced than usual Bob.
“Ma’am, ma’am… it is Master Anthony,” he blurted. “He’s sort of disappeared and his car is no longer on the drive.”
“I knew he was hiding something,” retorted Lady Felicity. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he knows where Clara is. Do you, Bob, know where he lives?”
Bob shook his head.
“I do!” volunteered Joy suddenly. “His brother used to go out with my sister, Plenty. He recently moved into a very smart penthouse above the old granary in town… and he drives a very nice red Porsche too,” she added, still feeling guilty about forgetting to tell her ladyship about the stable store earlier.
“Well if we needed a plan, I suggest that finding young Mr Woodward is first on our list,” interrupted Lady Felicity. “We’ve only been gone half an hour, he can’t have gone far.”

Back at Severn Avenue in Shrewsbury, Klaus was still waiting for Rolf to relieve him on his watch and was smoking his eleventh cigarette of the night.
He turned and reached to below the rear passenger seat and removed a black attaché case from a hidden compartment.
Carefully he opened the case and studied the dismantled Luther high powered rifle inside. He removed the silencer and blew a puff of cigarette smoke through its gunmetal housing.
“Perfect,” he purred to himself, before returning the silencer to the case.
With his right hand he then gently padded the hand gun in the holster under his jacket.
Outside, the grey animal had picked up a new scent. It moved from its cover under the laurel bush and sloped off quietly along the avenue to the far end.
Suddenly the silence of the night was disturbed by a muffled scream from the living room of number 24.
Green and grey eyes turned quickly towards the house.