Poison: Chapter Eight

The Adventures of Nathan Sunnybank and Joe Greenfield
Book 1: Poison
Chapter Eight

BACK at Greenfield Mansion two frantic parents jumped into the VW Polo parked on the gravel outside. Nicolas flicked the ignition and the car tore off down the drive to the gates of the manor house. He turned a sharp left and drove as fast as he could into the nearby town.
It was almost midnight and Gresburton was surprisingly quiet for a Monday night. The high street had temporary traffic lights for road works to the gas mains, but Nicolas ignored the red light and sped straight on to the Old Granary at the junction with John Talbot Street.
The car came to a stop outside a recently renovated barn type building. Nicolas and Felicity jumped out and looked up towards the penthouse flat above them. Lights were burning in all the windows and they could just make out the shadow of a man walking across one of the rooms.
Nicolas was the first to move. He pressed the button on the intercom at the front door. It made a familiar buzzing sound. After what seemed ages, an even more familiar voice emanated from the intercom and asked: “Yes, who is it?”
Nicolas almost barked: “Tony, is that you? It is Nicolas, Nathan’s dad.”
“And Felicity,” her Ladyship shouted from his side.
The intercom went dead. Nicolas pressed the button again… but no reply. He tried twice more, but again no answer. In the distance, they heard a door bang shut, but nothing more.
“Darn it, the blighter is ignoring us,” Felicity almost screamed. “What do we do next?”
At that moment the two worried parents heard the sound of a powerful car engine start just around the corner from the Old Granary. They moved towards the sound and the roar of the engine was suddenly upon them. Looking right they froze as a red Porsche Boxster turned the corner and raced away in the direction of the Old London Road. Nicolas took a mental note of the registration plate: T04Y WWD.
“Dang and blast!” shouted Lady Felicity. “What are we going to do now?”
“We will never catch him in this old thing,” answered Nicolas, pointing towards his VW, “She was a good car in her time, but I am lucky to get 60mph out of her now.”
“Well I guess we had better get back to the manor and ring the police again,” suggested Felicity.

Sometime later in the night at Severn Avenue things were starting to happen.
Amy sat on the sofa in the dark living room of her house with her right hand over her mouth.
“Crikey, I hope I didn’t wake the boys,” she said quietly to herself. “I can’t believe it had not occurred to me before.”
But the sound of footsteps on the stairs betrayed the fact that both the boys had woken at the sound of Amy’s involuntary shout.
“What is it Amy? Are you okay?” Nathan asked from the doorway to the living room. Joe peered over his shoulder and broached the same question. They both noticed a change in Amy’s demeanour. No longer did she look frightened or nervous, but she actually appeared excited.
“I think I have worked out the significance of the pictures,” she said suddenly, “and the five figure number!” Amy opened her arms towards the boys and said: “Come here and have a look and let me know what you think.”
The boys sat either side of their new friend on the comfort of the sofa. Amy produced four rough A4 print outs of the photos they had seen earlier on her PC.
“I thought I recognised the building,” said Amy. “I remember last summer when TJ and I went to London for the day for a protest march at Hyde Park against something like oil drilling in Sumatra or somewhere like that. Anyway, TJ pointed out this building to me when we were on the coach down there, she said it was the university where Sam works.”
“Yeah, it’s Glenwing,” interrupted Joe, “Sam took me down there a few years ago to show me some amazing snakes. But I don’t remember it looking like that!”
“That’s because the School of Tropical Reptiles is around the back of this building,” explained Amy. “I found the university on Google, it is in North London and have double checked everything on their website… this is it!”
Amy led the boys across the small living room to the PC and slowly showed them the information and pictures she had found while they were asleep.
“So what I think I have worked out is this,” she continued. “We know that wherever TJ went with Sam may have been dangerous. I reckon TJ left this bag here on purpose, as a life-line if things got nasty.”
“But what about the lockers and that number?” asked Nathan, “You haven’t explained that yet.”
“I have thought that one out,” said Amy. “I know your sister and your brother have only been going steady for a few months, but they have known each other a good deal longer. They met when your mum held that party at your manor house after you know what,” she added, looking at Joe.
“Oh, you mean after dad disappeared!” giggled Joe.
“Yes, exactly, and that was a good few years ago, you were still a wee nipper then, Joe,” Amy smiled back. “I remember TJ telling me that she and Sam shared a real passion for wildlife things, even though she hated snakes. So that explains why she pointed out Sam’s university over a year ago, even though it didn’t register with me at the time. And that explains why this pink fuzzball here is dangling from a locker door at Sam’s university,” she added with a spark in her eyes.
“And that number could be the key code for the locker or something,” suggested Nathan. “And the library card could be for the university library,” he added.
“I think you could be right,” returned Amy.
“Now then, what is that address that Sam asked you to go to?” she asked an equally excited boy.
Nathan said he would get Sam’s note from his bag and quickly ran upstairs to the bedroom.
Joe and Amy sat and stared at the print outs of TJ’s photos.
Suddenly there was the sound of a dull thump on the back wall of the house and the three friends were plunged into darkness as the lights went out.
“Blinkin’ hell, what was that?” shouted Nathan from upstairs.
“Don’t worry, it’s just a power cut,” Amy called back, “Stay where you are and I will find a candle.”
But before she could move she heard Nathan padding quickly downstairs. “Shhhhh,” he whispered. “I don’t think it is a power cut. I looked out the window and the streets lamps are on and there are lights in the windows of a few other houses across the road… anyway, there is someone in your back garden!”
Amy and Joe fell silent as Nathan led them back upstairs and pulled a corner of the bedroom curtains aside to peer outside. In the half-light, they could make out two men by the hedge. One was wearing what appeared to be yellow rubber gloves and was carrying a large pair of cutters while the other was carrying what looked like a hand gun… with a very long barrel. The first man knelt down, removed his gloves and began to open a black attaché case, he glanced up at the window.
“Oh my god,” choked Amy. ”It’s that blonde man I told you about and his mate. What are we going to do? They are after that bag.”
“Easily sorted,” suggested Nathan calmly. “Hey Joe, where is your torch?”
“I don’t know,” answered Joe. “It was in my bag when I left home, but it had gone when I opened the bag last night.”
“Dang,” snapped Nathan. “Doesn’t matter, we can do without, but it will be more difficult. Okay, Amy, get TJ’s bag and everything else and Joe and I will get dressed properly.”
Amy stood stunned as the young boy seemed to take control of things.
“Cummon, move quickly,” ordered Nathan.
Everything then became a blur of speed. Within what appeared to be a few seconds, the three friends were assembled back in the bedroom. From the dim glow of the street lights across the landing, Nathan put the flashcard, the fuzzball, the library card, the £10 note, the keys and the slip of paper containing the five figure number into his own bag. He then carefully retrieved something from his bag and placed it in TJ’s blue denim bag.
“Okay,” he said. “Now let’s leave TJ’s bag here and get out the front door while those men are still in the back garden. They mean business… and yes he was carrying a gun!”
Without question, Joe and Amy followed Nathan downstairs as quickly and quietly as they could in the darkness and made towards the dim light of the front of the house. Amy turned the Yale lock on the wooden door and opened it quickly. As she did so they heard a crack and clatter as if someone had broken a window or door behind them.
“Quick, run!” Amy was about to scream.
But as she opened her mouth her words stuck… a black leather gloved hand pushed her face backwards and she felt her body falling on top of the two boys.
The three of them lay frozen in fear on the hall carpet as two grey eyes looked down on them and a long barrelled pistol was pressed against Amy’s forehead.
“Sshhh kids, don’t make a noise,” the man with the blonde hair said slowly. “One move or sound and none of you will see the morning and no-one will hear it happen!”
Their attacker glanced up beyond them and barked an order: “Rolf, you look for the bag… it is a blue denim one. I’ll take care of these kids.”

Time seemed to stand still as the boys and Amy lay huddled on the hallway floor. Nathan wriggled a little as Joe held back tears and choked for breath. The gun was still pressed against Amy’s head.
Suddenly they heard a voice from upstairs call: “I have found the bag, boss!”
“Bring it down here, Rolf,” ordered the blonde haired man.
“And now it is time to say goodbye,” he whispered to Amy.
The silencer barrel pressed hard on her forehead, the hammer clicked back on the revolver, in less than a second she knew she would die.
But a sudden deathly scream emanated from the stairwell above them. Everything froze.
Four faces turned instantly upwards towards the noise in time to see a younger man’s face contort with agony as he fell forwards towards them.
From the opened front door a pair of green eyes surveyed the back of the blonde haired man with the gun.

Poem: Dylanesque

A blackbird is singing, grass growing high
There’s a soft cotton dress on the line hanging dry
The window’s wide open, Acacia trees
Yellow wash gently in a warm summer breeze
He sits at his desk, pencil in hand
Watching and waiting for his grey dove to land

A train rumbles slowly, along the old track
There’s smoke in the air from behind the shack
Feel the pulse and vibration and the rumbling force
A young girl is out there upon a white horse
He sits at his desk, pencil in hand
Watching and waiting for his grey dove to land

A faint message appears in the hand of Hermes
Love and affection ‘mid the fluttering leaves
Hope is rekindled, and his brave life it does float
Cool is the wind as he picks up his coat
He sits at his desk, pencil in hand
Watching and waiting for his grey dove to land

Shedding off one more layer of skin

THE UK has a population of approximately 65 million people and with ever faster transport systems and micro second communication technology it is now just a large village.
Yet it never ceases to amaze me at what a very small world we really live in.
As regular readers of this blog may know, I was brought up near Brighton, on the rolling downs of Sussex – for world readers, this is the deep south of England.
Recently I received a small and quite pleasant shock. My best friend while growing up in the village of Mile Oak was my next door neighbour, Johnny. Please read There’s danger on the battlefield where the shells of bullets fly for further references. I lost complete touch with Johnny when I left school at 18 for university life in Yorkshire… that was 40 years ago!
Two weeks ago, while browsing updates about old class mates on the website Friends Reunited, I noticed Johnny’s name and the fact he was living and working as a boat builder in Argyll, in the north west of Scotland. I tracked his company email address and fired off a “how are you?” email. Ten minutes later came a surprised reply. He had moved to Argyll in 1990 – the same year I moved to Argyll – and has lived there ever since. He lives in a village some seven miles away from where I used to live for two years. But most surprisingly he used to read the newspaper I edited every week, never realising that I was the editor. He even remembered in detail one story I had published. We both laughed at the fact that we still remembered in detail the hand grenade incident in 1966!
One of the more bizarre examples of the village-like geography of my life reads like a Pete Frame “Rock Family” tree.
I studied for my degrees between 1974 and 1979 at Huddersfield Polytechnic and the nearby Bretton Hall College. My oldest and best friend from this time was an art student called Judith, while the best man at my wedding was a music student called Howard. In my second year at college I was gobsmacked to find that while I was at home for a reading week, the famous folk singer/comedian Mike Harding had slept in my bed following a gig at the college. I dined out on this simple story for many years.
As time went on I became a huge fan of the English folk rock group Fairport Convention and would often attend their annual Cropredy Convention festival in Oxfordshire each August. Over the years, I got to know a few members of the band, while sharing a beer at the festival bar – the most lugubrious of whom was multi-instrumentalist Maart Allcock.
In 2007 I discovered that Maart lived close to me in North Wales. I popped along to watch him perform in a local pub and briefly chatted to his wife Jan.
Roll on August 2008. My old friend from student days, Judith, said she would like to come to Cropredy with me. We made plans and packed our camping gear. A couple of days before the festival started, Judith told me that her sister in New Zealand had mentioned that an old best friend from their childhood in Coventry called Jan had married a member of Fairport Convention. There could be only one combination! So three days later I introduced Judith to Maart and Jan Allcock at the festival bar. There followed a mix of laughter and tears and a few pints of beer. We later bumped into Mike Harding, who was compering part of the festival!
But this, by chance, simple reunion didn’t end there.
Over the next couple of years, Maart and I began to swap matey emails and I discovered that (a) He studied at Huddersfield Polytechnic while I was studying there. (b) He played with my best man and fellow music student Howard. (c) After leaving Huddersfield he moved to Leeds and played with the aforementioned Mike Harding.
Meanwhile, on the back of my “look who’s been sleeping in my bed” story I became Facebook friends with Mike Harding and mutual friend Andy Kershaw – who happened to be the events secretary at Leeds University – a spit away from Huddersfield – in the mid 1970s.
And to take things to a natural conclusion, last year I found out that Andy Kershaw is currently a neighbour of a good friend Yvonne in Todmorden, near Huddersfield. That friend is in turn a mutual friend of Judith!
A silly and quite bizarre post script is that one Christmas Eve, 20 years ago, my wife’s parents received a knock on the door at their home near Coventry. My mother-in-law opened the door to be greeted by a man carrying a large turkey. “Oh my God, you’re that Mike Harding from the telly!” she exclaimed. It wasn’t… it was fellow comedian and local Brummie Jasper Carrott, whose sister lived next door. He had simply knocked on the wrong door!
Mike Harding was acquainted with this tale only last year!
Which all goes to prove the six degrees of separation theory!
And it is with my wife Gill that the next simple twist of fate takes place – and it really is a double whammy!
Long before we met, Gill lived and worked as an English teacher in the Greek city of Thessaloniki for 10 years. She returned permanently to the UK in 2002 and often tells me stories of the sun drenched café lifestyle, restaurants and architecture of this beautiful Greek city.
When Gill and I first got together we lived in small hamlet in the North Wales hills. My son Nathan attended a primary school in a nearby village. The school was tiny with just 10 pupils in his year group and 96 pupils at the school in total! One day, about 18 months ago, Nathan told me that a new Greek boy had joined his school. “And he does taekwondo too!” he enthused (his favourite sport). A few weeks later at a taekwondo training session, Nathan introduced me to the new boy Yanni and his Greek dad Dino and British mum Nicola. I, in turn, introduced them to my wife. The next 15 minutes stretched believability as we discovered: (a) Yanni’s family had moved from Thessaloniki. (b) They lived just one street away from where Gill had lived. (c) Dino and Nicola owned a restaurant which Gill dined at almost every week. (d) They were both friends with one of Gill’s closest friends from her time in Thessaloniki. (e) When Nicola first arrived in Greece she had gone to the British Council where Gill worked to ask for advice on learning Greek! Needless to say we are now all good friends!
But Gill and my life coincidences don’t end there.
Gill is nine years younger than me and the first coincidence is we share the same strange surname: Outterside. There are only about 240 Outterside households in the entire UK!
Both our families originally herald from the Newcastle and Sunderland areas in North East England.
In September 1984, my first wife Ann, our new born son Ben and I were staying with relations in the region. We took the opportunity to visit my elderly Great Aunt Nan Charlton (my grandfather’s sister) at her small villa at Bank Top in Throckley, a few miles west of Newcastle. Aunt Nan was aged about 94 at the time and I had not seen her since my grandfather died three years earlier. When we arrived at the house I was amazed to find this frail old lady picking blackberries at the end of her garden. She looked pleased to see us and chirped: “The blackberries are good this year. The young girl next door is picking a basket full too.” I looked through the hedge to see a pretty young woman of about 18 years of age picking the fruit.
Over a cup of tea, my great aunt explained that the new next door neighbours were also called Outterside, but had not realised her own maiden name for many months after they had moved in. She said she did not think we were related in any way, but the girl’s father Bruce had once worked with my father’s twin brother Geoff at Heathrow Airport!
I thought little more of it and was saddened a few years later when I had to miss Aunt Nan’s 100th birthday party, and a year later, her funeral.
Anyway, time and divorces passed by and sometime about 25 years later I befriended Gill via Facebook. The friendship was partly based on the fact we both lived quite close but mainly because we shared the same surname. The friendship blossomed into love two years ago and in February 2013 we became married.
Along the way we discovered that (a) we share the same great-great-great grandparents (b) I had worked with Gill’s brother on the Outterside family tree some 10 years earlier (c) Gill had attended my great aunt Nan’s 100th birthday, because (d) she was the young girl picking blackberries in the neighbour’s garden all those years ago.
It is a very small world!

Poem: Fanny by Gaslight

Fanny turn the gaslight up
And tell me what you see
Your vision has been clouded
Do you still remember me?
The lies and old malt whisky
Have poisoned all that’s good
Your captives have been clever
Don’t let us be misunderstood

Fanny turn the gaslight up
And cut the wick down low
Your memory has been twisted
And truth returns too slow
The lies and old malt whisky
Have poisoned all that’s good
Your captives have been clever
Don’t let us be misunderstood

Fanny turn the gaslight up
Now open the curtains wide
The horizon goes on forever
And I am on the other side
The lies and old malt whisky
Have poisoned all that’s good
Your captives have been clever
Don’t let us be misunderstood

Fanny turn the gaslight up
Pack your toothbrush and your comb
The train awaits on platform six
So make your way back home
The lies and old malt whisky
Have poisoned all that’s good
Your captives have been clever
Don’t let us be misunderstood

Poem: From a Distance

The day it dawned in darkness
The door it was slammed shut
The candle which was burning
Had all but been snuffed out
I fought with all my senses
Against the hope that was so clear
I hear a young dove crying 3,000 miles from here

I waited for 4,000 days
At times it seemed much more
I looked up to the evening sky
Counted shooting stars by the score
Your own flame shone quite brightly
And my hope it was so clear
I hear a young dove crying 3,000 miles from here

An asteroid exploded
On a Sunday back in June
A father’s love rekindled
But someone blew it out too soon
I waited for each message
My heart still swelled quite clear
I hear a young dove crying 3,000 miles from here

(with thanks to local singer/songwriter Ian Hunter for borrowing the last line refrain)

Review: Eithe’s Way by Rhian Waller

WHAT do The Sin Eater, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog and The Gremlins have in common?
If you are Welsh, a literary buff, or even both, the answer is easy. If not, they are the debut novels by three of Wales’ greatest authors writing in the English language: Alice Thomas Ellis, Dylan Thomas and Roald Dahl.
There is something in Wales that inspires great fiction. Perhaps it is the labyrinth of mines under the mountains, the cloud covered mountains, or green valleys dampened by Welsh rain. Here is a place where language, tradition and landscape are connected to a lost and ancient past, shrouded in mystery and legend.
It is a principality of many worlds.
Eithe’s Way is the debut novel of Wales’ newest and most promising writer of fiction, Rhian Waller.
Rhian, aged 29, has been using words to jump into other worlds since she learned to read. In time, she decided that she would like to create some worlds of her own so other people could visit them.
And Eithe has her own way in one of these worlds.
Eithe is a young woman uncertain of her place in life. Locked into a destructive and abusive relationship, Eithe makes a life changing decision when she takes her fate into her own hands and escapes into an adventure of self-discovery.
As she begins to explore this new freedom, she finds herself unexpectedly in the middle of another more sinister reality where she embarks on a metaphysical journey with ‘the man in the mirror’.
With a passing homage to Stephen R Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant novels or Life on Mars, Eithe’s journey asks questions of the reader: where do we go when we are unconscious? Where roams the spirit of a person in a coma?
Despite her vulnerability, Eithe’s limbo exists within that in-between place, as she finds her own destiny and that of the man in the mirror are inextricably linked.
Eithe’s Way has all the elements of a mystery thriller. It is darkly humorous and at times brutal, this story of the transience and impermanence of life is written in a quirky and elegant style that takes us into the ‘other world’, where the veil between the living and the not quite dead is at its thinnest.
Quite simply Eithe’s Way is one of the finest debut novels from a Welsh writer in a very long time.
Rhian Waller may not yet be the next Alice Thomas Ellis or Roald Dahl, but there again, she might be.
Highly recommended.
Eithe’s Way is available as either a paperback or digital download from Amazon at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Eithes-Way-Rhian-Waller/dp/1500142085/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1404376268&sr=1-1&keywords=eithe%27s+way