The Adventures of Nathan Sunnybank and Joe Greenfield
Book 1: Poison
ON the edge of the coppice Nathan and Joe hugged quickly, collapsed together on a grassy bank and laughed out loud at their respective escapes.
“Dad was so engrossed in his new book, he won’t even realise I have gone for at least four hours,” said Nathan.
Joe grinned back from behind his shock of long brown hair before adding: “And with mum and Joy giving it some in the kitchen, they didn’t even notice me sneak out!”
“But what about Clara?” asked Nathan.
Joe broke into fits of laughter.
“She isn’t going anywhere, at least not till tea-time when mum goes to feed the horses and we will be miles away by then… tell you all about it later,” he chuckled.
Nathan sniggered before pointing to Joe’s bag and saying: “Okay, let’s see if we have everything.”
The two friends emptied their bags on the grass and carried out an inventory of everything they had brought.
Maps, money, knife, torch, biscuits, a stop watch, a packet of small plastic bags, some coloured elastic bands, spare underpants, two apples, the photo of TJ, one toothbrush between them and the jar of snake venom… all seemed to be in order.
“Aah mint, you’ve got chocolate fingers,” laughed Joe, while stuffing four of them into his mouth.
“And jelly beans!” sniggered Nathan, taking a handful of the multi-coloured flavoured sweets.
“Right,” he added, “We had better get going… the train leaves in 35 minutes.”
The two boys gazed across the fields towards the branch line railway station of Gresburton.
“Reckon we can get there in less than 15 minutes,” laughed Joe, repacking his bag. “Cummon!”
The two boys ran across the grass, down the hill towards the old red brick railway station.
Behind them, in the trees, the pair of angry brown eyes watched them.
And hidden in a dense rhododendron bush some 50 yards further back two piercing green eyes also watched.
“Whoo hoo!” Nathan shouted as the boys jumped a half rotten stile into the next field.
“Beat you there,” screamed Joe as he bustled past Nathan and took an early lead towards the railway station.
The sun beat down on the two friends as they raced their way into their dangerous adventure.
It would be the last time for a long while they would feel such innocent sunshine on their backs.
Suddenly Joe skidded to a stop by a large oak tree.
Nathan crashed into him and the two friends rolled onto the grass.
“What is this?” questioned Joe, pointing at a group of strange brown and grey fungi, growing around the base of the tree.
He reached out his hand to pick one.
As quick as lightning, Nathan punched Joe in the belly and yelled loudly at him: “No, don’t!”
Joe looked bruised and shocked by Nathan’s attack.
“Hey Nath, what you doing? I only want a closer look!”
“But you mustn’t even touch them,” Nathan retorted.
“They are Grey Skull Death Fungi. Their poison can even seep through the skin on your hands and you’d be really sick or even dead within minutes!”
Joe looked shocked.
Nathan continued: “They are really rare in this country and it’s only the second time I have ever seen them. I am amazed they are here.
“Look, can you see the skull-like imprint on the cap of the fungi?”
Joe’s face went its own deathly shade of grey as he listened to what Nathan said, and studied the strange image.
“Thank God your mum is a witch,” said Joe, nervously. “She has taught you so much.”
“Well maybe not always, but she does know her fungi and poisons,” he replied.
“But they could be useful, let’s take a few.”
Joe sat on the grass in awe as Nathan took a small plastic bag from his canvas holdall, and, using it like a glove picked three fungi – before dropping them into another plastic bag and depositing it into a side pocket of the holdall.
“Right, let’s go, if we wanna catch that train,” Nathan snapped.
The boys continued their race across the fields and were soon on Pant Lane, just 100 metres from the railway station.
Then, almost like twins, they paused together and deliberated on their next move.
“Right,” said Joe.
“We need to decide how we are going to buy our tickets.
“You are only eleven and there is no way the guy at the ticket office will sell you a long distance train ticket without an adult with you,” he added.
“Yeah,” said Nathan.
“But even though you are thirteen and a few inches taller than me, you still don’t look old enough.
“And anyway we need to get this first train without anyone being able to trace us… that’s why I brought so much cash!”
They both looked blank for a moment.
Then Joe broke the silence.
“Got an idea,” he whispered.
“Never used one before, but seen Joy buy her train tickets on her days off at a machine near the station door.
“Reckon we can work out how to do it?”
The boys chuckled and nodded a ‘yes’ to each other.
Carefully they walked to the station entrance, paused, looked round to check they were alone and approached the ticket machine.
Nathan read the instructions on a white notice at the front of the blue computerised box.
“Reckon I know how,” he said.
He chose their destination of London Euston, via Shrewsbury, and touched the screen, then he selected a single ticket and a junior half fare option.
He gasped when the machine told him to insert £65.
“Wow, that’s expensive,” he said hesitating. Then he carefully unrolled a bundle of notes from his back pocket.
He inserted the bank notes and waited while the machine coughed up £5 change and a small green ticket.
Nathan read the ticket carefully and turned to his friend.
“Okay Joe… your turn!”
Joe followed the same sequence and within a minute had his own ticket stuffed into his jeans’ pocket.
He looked at his watch.
“We got just 10 minutes,” he said.
“Fancy a can of coke?”
The boys walked briskly onto the station platform, checked the departure notice and strolled across to the drinks vending machine.
With somewhat greater ease they bought two cans of coke.
The sweet pop invigorated them after their busy morning in the sun.
Their adventure really had begun.
After what seemed only a few minutes a three carriage train rolled into the station.
Joe checked the train number against the departure board and nodded to Nathan.
“This is it!” he whispered.
The boys climbed into the first carriage, stowed their bags under their seats and sat smiling, looking out onto the platform opposite.
On a bench just 20 metres away, they recognised Mr Taylor, their football coach, sitting reading a newspaper.
The boys looked down, and grinned.
They heard a guard blow a whistle and the surge of the electric engine as the train prepared to move off.
One carriage back, two angry – and now intensely curious – brown eyes watched them from behind a high-backed seat.
And in the last carriage two green eyes also peered out from under a luggage rack.