The Adventures of Nathan Sunnybank and Joe Greenfield
Book 1: Poison
NICOLAS sat in one of the half-chewed wicker chairs in his conservatory and, under a single basket shaded lamp, tried to decipher the uneaten part of his son’s note.
He could make out that Nathan was apologising for something and also that he was with Joe, and on closer inspection, he also saw TJ’s name and the words “life or death”. But the rest of the note was either illegible or simply missing.
He stuffed it into his trouser pocket.
The final two words “Love Nathan” stayed neatly etched in Nicolas’s mind as he hurried upstairs to pack a bag and report his findings to Felicity.
In his small double bedroom he stuffed a few bare essentials into a corduroy grip and changed into a baggy jumper, a pair of canvas chinos and some old suede desert boots.
At the last minute he remembered to retrieve Nathan’s note from his old trousers and tuck it into the back pocket of his chinos.
Nicolas then turned off his cottage lights, shut all the doors and hurried out to his car.
As he approached the vehicle, the two goats skittered past him into the darkness.
“Finest Afghan goat curry, both of you,” he growled after them.
On the short drive back to Greenfield Mansion, Nicolas again thought about Nathan’s note and especially the reference to TJ.
Was he missing something? Why would Nathan mention his sister and why the words “life or death”?
Nicolas knew TJ was away on an animal rights activist demonstration somewhere. But she was with friends and she was always self-assured in her texts and postcards home.
But there hadn’t been a postcard or text for over two weeks.
Nicolas wondered whether to telephone his former wife Elizabeth to ask whether she had heard from TJ… and as that thought passed through his mind he found himself outside the front door of Greenfield Mansion.
A cloud passed across the moon as he ran up the steps to the main door and pushed it gently.
It was now well past 2am as he entered the lobby to be greeted by a tired but smiling Felicity.
“Good to see you again, Nicolas,” she said, as he put his grip down next to a large potted aspidistra.
“Come and sit over here… there have been some developments,” she added.
Nicolas obeyed and sat on the chaise longue.
“Would you like a cocoa?” Felicity asked.
“No, I am fine,” was the reply.
“Well then, you’ll never guess what I found,” smiled Felicity, producing Clara’s mobile phone from the seat next to her.
And for the next 10 minutes she told Nicolas every detail of not only the three text messages shared between her daughter and Tony earlier that evening, but of a succession of dozens of texts between the couple from the past few weeks.
“I know Clara is 17 years old and needs some privacy, but I am her mother and I feel she has been less than honest with me,” she said.
“The deceit about the music lessons with Master Anthony is one thing, but matters have gone much too far. And now she is heaven knows where with this man and seems to know far more about what is going on than either you or me.”
Nicolas lightly touched the back of Felicity’s right hand and said gently: “Don’t worry, I am sure the kids are safe and we will get to the bottom of this.”
Felicity turned and smiled, her greying auburn hair caught the moonlight playing through the pane above the main door.
“Are you sure you don’t want that cocoa?” she said more calmly.
“Oh, yes… thank you,” answered Nicolas, rising to his feet.
The two parents ambled through to the kitchen and continued their conversation.
Back at 24 Severn Avenue, Amy was about to ring 999 on her mobile phone.
“No, don’t!” Nathan and Joe shouted almost in unison.
“We must not get the cops involved or TJ could die,” added the younger boy hurriedly.
“Well what do we do?” demanded a now increasingly agitated Amy. “We have a dead man, a wolf, a gun, three bullet holes and another man lying here in front of us in the hallway of my house… we have to do something.”
“Make that two guns,” said Joe, shining a large rubber torch he had just found on the sill next to Amy’s front door.
Joe shone the torch beam at a rifle lying half way up the staircase, then he turned the beam at the doorway of the living room to where Nathan had kicked the revolver.
“Well, I think first of all I need to clear away the bits of fungi,” pressed Nathan, “before someone else touches them by mistake… do you have any other torches, Amy?” he asked.
“Oh and any duct tape?”
Amy hesitated and said she had another torch in her bedroom and a roll of parcel tape in a box in the spare room.
“Parcel tape… well, I suppose that will have to do,” Nathan answered, disappointedly.
“Let me clear the stairs of the fungi and find the other torch and the tape,” he added, taking control of the situation for the second time that night.
“Can you help me pull this dead guy away from the stairs so I can get past… and don’t touch anything else, nor his right hand,” he added.
For the next 15 minutes, the three friends worked together to clear the staircase and make safe the back door with a chair wedged against the broken door handle. The spare torch helped them all see things more clearly.
All the while, Blue stood over the prone body of Klaus, who occasionally let out a small cry of pain or fear as the wolf moved against his bleeding leg.
“Pack a bag for yourself,” Nathan suddenly said to Amy, “We need to get as far away from here as we can. I have read enough Tom Clancy to know these guys are bound to have support somewhere.”
“But it’s my house!” cried Amy.
“And do you feel safe here?” asked Nathan.
“No, I don’t and haven’t felt safe for at least a week until you guys arrived,” she answered.
“Well in that case we need to move now,” said Nathan.
“But where to?” asked Amy.
“Sshhhh, you know where,” Nathan replied, winking at her in the half light.
“But what about this blonde haired man, I reckon he could still hurt us?” asked Joe.
Nathan produced the roll of parcel tape.
“This should slow him down,” he said. “Joe, you put your foot on his right wrist and if he tries to move, press down hard on it.”
Joe did as he was told and gave Klaus’s wrist a test heel.
The man screamed.
“Sshhhh or you’ll wake the whole street,” whispered the younger boy.
Nathan then proceeded, with Amy’s help, to bind Klaus’s mouth with parcel tape before clumsily taping his wrists and ankles to a chair, the banister newel and a hall table.
Satisfied with their work, Nathan quipped: “That should slow him down.”
A decidedly uncomfortable Klaus made increasing moans of pain.
Blue now sat by the man licking at the blood which still oozed from his torn right trouser leg.
Amy then turned to the boys and said: “Okay, now it’s my turn to have a plan and that plan is parked at the end of the road by the river bank! But first of all I want rid of these guns out of my house.”
“Well,” said Joe, “is the river bank near a river?”
“Yes of course it is, stupid!” came the reply.
“Well, seems like a good place to get rid of these guns,” he added with a big grin.
“Let’s go then,” urged Nathan.
“Oh Amy, do you have some cheese?” asked Joe suddenly.
“Yes, I think I have a new block of cheddar in the fridge, why?” she replied.
“You’ll find out soon,” Joe added. “Can Blue come too?”
In the kitchen at Greenfield Mansion, Nicolas and Felicity were sitting on a wooden settle, sharing cocoa from two old TG Green mugs.
Felicity told Nicolas about her call to the local police station.
“I couldn’t believe it, do you know our police station is only part-time. What do we pay our rates for?” she seethed. “Anyway they put me through to headquarters ruddy miles away and I spoke to some jobsworth officer who didn’t even know where Gresburton was,” her anger mounting as she told the story.
“But they have now got Master Anthony’s registration number and assured me they were taking the matter seriously. The officer said he had logged it all on their computer thingy and our local station would pick things up when they open at 8.30am,” she added.
Nicolas reassured Felicity again and reached into the back pocket of his chinos to retrieve the remnants of Nathan’s note. He passed her the piece of paper.
“Blimey!” she gasped as she tried to read the note.
“What do you think it means and why is TJ mentioned?”
“I think it means that we have a couple of leads,” replied Nicolas.
“I think it might be a good idea if you try texting Clara on the number logged on her phone and I will ring the dear witch to see if she has heard from TJ recently, because I have not heard a dicky bird in at least two weeks.”
“That’s odd, I have not heard from Sam recently either,” added Felicity, “And he is usually good at keeping in touch, even when he is abroad.”
“I will text Clara now, but as it is rather late, do you think it might be better to ring Elizabeth in the morning… unless she is at an all-night coven,” Felicity said with a schoolgirlish smirk.
“We can’t do much else now so I suggest you get some sleep, Nicolas. I have had Bob make up a bed for you in the West Wing and I will ask Mrs Wills to cook breakfast early when we are both more awake.”
Nicolas nodded appreciatively.
“Let me show you to the room,” offered Felicity, “And don’t forget your bag.”
“I will let you know if Clara replies to my text,” she added, giving Nicolas a tiny peck on his cheek.
In Shrewsbury, Amy, Joe and Nathan walked briskly down Severn Avenue towards the river bank. A few yards behind them a wolf slunk quietly along the bushes taking care to stay out of glow from the street lights. Further back the front door of number 24 had been closed tight. Inside, Klaus was struggling to free himself from the parcel tape manacles.
Two streets away in the bed and breakfast room, Clara was woken by two text messages. The first was from Tony, telling her he was parked outside and would wait until morning. The second message was from her mother.
Clara sent a single ‘x’ text back to Tony and lay puzzling how to reply to the second message.
Outside, Tony’s tired blue eyes were adjusting to the darkness when he suddenly saw two young boys and an older girl all hurry by at the end of the road. Each was carrying a bag and the girl appeared to also be carrying a long item in her left hand that looked like a fishing rod or a gun! Some yards behind them loped a large grey animal.
Tony gasped loudly. The animal turned its head and its piercing green eyes looked towards him.