Poison: Chapter 12

The Adventures of Nathan Sunnybank and Joe Greenfield

Book 1: Poison

Chapter Twelve

THE sun rose orange over the trees by the parked camper van. Inside, Amy and the two boys slept soundly, exhausted by the events of the previous 24 hours.

Blue sniffed at the double side door and scratched at his ruff with a hind leg. All was still. It was just past 5am and for the humans there was more sleeping to do. But the wolf was wide awake and hungry. He sniffed again, this time in the direction of the partly opened rear window.

Suddenly and with effortless ease, he jumped up onto the rear cabinet and eased his head and front legs through the window. In another movement he was free, leapt onto the tarmac and sloped into the bushes alongside the van. Nathan blinked at the slight noise, but his tired eyes refused to focus and he drifted off to sleep.

Outside, Blue was sidling along the fence of the neighbouring field, eyeing curiously some sheep grazing on the dew covered grass 200 metres away. The wolf had started to stalk the young ewe at the edge of the flock when a buck rabbit suddenly darted out of the undergrowth next to him. With a pounce, he was upon the hapless creature and his jaws locked around its neck. He dragged the dead rabbit into the bushes and began to enjoy his breakfast.

Some 70 miles away, a red Porsche Boxster was parked at a service station on the southbound M40. Inside its occupants were also sleeping, cramped on the black leather seats of the smart sports car. Exhaustion had taken its toll. Empty crisp packets and a half eaten chicken sandwich were strewn on the floor of the passenger side by Clara’s feet.

It was now just past 6am and the service area was waking up to early risers filling their cars with fuel. The driver of an articulated truck walked sleepily to the washrooms in the main foyer.

Tony blinked his eyes, dazzled by the morning sun shining through the driver’s side window. He glimpsed the figure of a man walking across the car park. He quietly cursed at the fact they had not managed to secure a motel room for the night… or was it the morning? he asked himself. He looked across at Clara who was still sleeping soundly and silently opened the car door. He stepped out into the warm morning air, closed the door and followed the steps of the trucker he had seen a minute earlier.

Five minutes later, refreshed by a quick wash, Tony ambled to the coffee bar next to the main foyer. He ordered two flat whites and carried the steaming cardboard mugs back towards the car.

He stepped out onto the forecourt and gasped loudly as a black BMW flashed by towards the filling station.

“You stupid blighter!” Tony shouted at the driver.

But inside the black car, Klaus was oblivious to the anger of the man he had almost hit and knew he needed fuel and a black coffee to keep himself awake. The two hours’ sleep he had managed to grab back in Shrewsbury had taken the edge off his tiredness, but disposing of Klaus’s body had added its own burden of weariness.

He stopped the BMW next to a fuel pump and glanced around for any sign of police cars. There was none, just a few trucks and a red Porsche parked 200 metres away.

He noticed a solitary man, who appeared to be carrying a couple of cartons, glance his way and wondered why he was looking at him.

Tony again glared at the driver of the black BMW and muttered another expletive in his direction.

As he opened the driver’s door of his Porsche, Clara woke with a huge yawn and smiled as she saw Tony’s face. She breathed in the morning air and said: “Ah, coffee, how lovely of you.”

Tony sat next to her, and still fuming, he answered: “Thought we both needed something strong to keep us going.” He handed Clara one of the coffees and kissed her right cheek.

“See that blinkin’ black BMW over there by the pumps? Well, its driver almost ran me over and I think he didn’t even realise it,” Tony added grumpily.

Clara shot a look in the direction of the filling station. With her left hand, she wiped some sleep from her eyes and looked again.

“Flipping hell,” she said suddenly, “I recognise that man and that car!”

Back at the service area on the M54, Blue had digested his first breakfast and was now sniffing at left overs in the bins by the burger bar. The wolf licked its lips at a half-eaten double cheeseburger and sat on the grass to devour it in one bite.

Around him cars, vans and trucks were busying about and the car park was starting to fill up.

Commuters, lorry drivers and holidaymakers were grabbing a quick breakfast or filling their vehicles with fuel.

A few yards away a young girl suddenly shouted: “Look, mummy, look at that big doggy!”

A fair-haired woman peered in the direction of the ‘big doggy’.

“Wow, that’s the biggest German Shepherd I’ve ever seen,” she said aloud. “Hold my hand, darling, and don’t try to stroke it, it may bite. Now let’s get some breakfast, darling, it is still a long drive to our holiday cottage.”

The girl grabbed hold of her mother’s hand.

“Nasty doggy,” she shouted at Blue.

The wolf sniffed the air and slinked back to the cover of the hedges.

Inside the burger bar, an older man was watching though the window as he finished his cup of tea and egg muffin. His grey eyes looked towards the young girl and then at the large animal disappearing into the bushes.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” he muttered to himself, “That’s a blinkin’ wolf if ever I saw one!”

He took a last sip of tea and walked into the passage by the burger bar, towards the blue telephone booth.

Inside the booth he lifted the handset and quickly dialled 999. When prompted he asked to be put through to the police.

Back at Greenfield Mansion, Nicolas was waking from a deep sleep and familiarising himself with the unfamiliar room. Sunlight was peeping through the gap in the dark green velvet curtains.

Nicolas yawned and stretched his arms wide as he glanced at the clock on the bedside table.

“Blimey, It’s past seven-thirty,” he gasped.

At that moment, there was a knock on his bedroom door.

“Yes, come in, I am decent,” Nicolas replied.

The ruddy face of Bob the butler peered round the door.

“Good morning, Sir,” he said brightly.

“Let me draw back the curtains for you. Her ladyship wanted me to ask you whether kippers, porridge and some poached eggs would suit you for breakfast, sir?”

“Wow, that would be lovely, thank you, Bob,” Nicolas answered.

“Oh don’t thank me, Sir, thank Mrs Wills, she is quite the finest cook this side of the border,” Bob breezed, as he drew back the curtains.

“I have also packed the Rolls as I think her ladyship wants to leave before nine,” he added.

Indeed, Felicity was already dressed and in the kitchen, demanding to know why Joy wasn’t already about her chores.

“Oh Mrs Wills, do we have fresh kippers, they are quite scrummy?” she asked the cook.

“Yes, madam, they were fresh in yesterday afternoon and I have kept them chilled in the fridge,” the cook replied.

“Good, and do you mind putting together a hamper of sandwiches and coffee, as I think we may have a bit of driving to do today,” added Felicity.

In the corner of the kitchen, a small TV was switched to the 24 hour news channel.

Felicity took in the round-up of the morning’s news and determined to telephone the local police station again as soon as it was open for business.

“And Clara still hasn’t replied to my text,” she snapped quietly.

Suddenly, she froze as the news reel at the bottom of the TV screen reported: “Motorway service station evacuated after wolf attacks child.”

Back at the M54 service station, the truth was far from that.

But over 40 frightened faces looked out nervously from the sanctuary of the burger bar and the filling station shop.

Six police cars circled the parking area and four uniformed officers armed with high powered rifles combed the bushes near where the old man and a waitress had both claimed they had seen the wolf.

Just over 150 metres away across the car park, Blue was crouched at the side door of the VW Camper van scratching quietly at the brown paintwork. The wolf knew that humans with guns were big trouble and his animal sense told him that they were looking for him.

His green eyes darted between the men with the guns, instantly computing where each one was walking next.

He stared at one marksman approaching the van, and snarled.

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.

Poison Chapter 4

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

JOE and Nathan disembarked from the train – remembering at the last minute to drag their canvas bags from under their seats – and stood awestruck on the platform.
But the sense of wonder lasted only a few seconds before Nathan said: “Cummon Joe, we gotta go!”
Joe laughed out loud and the two boys walked briskly down to the ticket check and out onto the station concourse.
Once outside they stood as taxis whizzed to and fro and a crowd of people pushed past in pursuit of their shopping trip, or whatever else had brought them to this busy Shropshire town.
Nathan rummaged in his bag and consulted one of his maps. He was about to point the way, when a sudden commotion erupted behind them.
There were screams and various shouts of: “Over there!” and “Look!” and more urgently: “Run!”
A rush of people herded past into the car park and the apparent safety of the streets beyond.
Joe and Nathan listened as one elderly gentleman said to his wife: “It was, I swear to you, I have seen them in zoos.”
His grey-haired wife held his arm and replied: “There, there, it was only a large dog, now calm down Cedric.”
And with that, she pointed and said “Look!”
The two boys followed her stare and watched a middle-aged woman in a tweed skirt and jacket fasten a chain lead to a large Alsatian and reprimand the animal with “Bad dog, Karl!”
“Wow, wonder what all that was about?” said Joe.
“Dunno, but we must get on,” said Nathan, “It’s more exciting than boring old Gresburton.”
But as the boys were about to turn on their way, they were stopped again, this time with a familiar shout of “Hey, Nath!”
Nathan looked across the busy main road and was shocked to see his best friend from school, Ben Hill, waving madly from the opposite pavement. Ben’s mum, Caryn, also waved and, holding her son’s hand, crossed the road as the lights changed to red against the stream of traffic.
“Hiya Nath,” exclaimed Ben, and “Hi Jack,” he added in Joe’s direction.
Joe grunted back and Nathan looked embarrassed.
“Well, what are you two miscreants doing in Shrewsbury?” asked a clearly puzzled Mrs Hill.
“Where’s your dad, Nathan?” she continued.
Nathan flushed as he lied: “We’re, we’re going to see the dinosaur exhibition… sorry we gotta dash cos dad is waiting for us in the newsagents over there.”
Nathan grabbed Joe’s hand and the two boys ran in the general direction of a newsagents across from the traffic lights.
Behind them Ben called: “See you tomorrow Nath.”
Mrs Hill added: “Take care and watch the traffic, boys.”
Once inside the newsagents, the two friends pretended to look at magazines while nervously glancing out the window to watch Mrs Hill and Ben walk away in the direction of the town centre.
The boys glanced at each other and Joe winked.
Once the coast was clear, Nathan led Joe out of the shop and back over the road they had just crossed.

Back at Landfill Cottage, Nicolas Sunnybank’s mood had changed from one of anger and surprise to one of anger and fear.
Anger because, how dare his young son apparently sell his prize telecaster, worth over £2,000 for a mere £325, and how dare he then milk his Paypal account of £400.
And fear, because, why would his son do that, and where was he now?
Nicolas thought of waiting until tea-time to seriously quiz his wayward eleven-year-old, but something tugged at him to deal with the situation that very minute.
“He will be up to no good with that spoilt rich friend of his, Joe Greenfield,” he fumed.
“I bet he’s part of this!”
And with anger fighting measure for measure with the emotion of fear, Nicolas slipped on some green Crocs, picked up his car keys and leaving the back door wide open allowed a breeze to blow lazily across the conservatory.
Out in the glare of the sun, he jumped into his old purple VW Polo.
One turn of the ignition key and the car sped down the dusty lane and onto Gresburton Road.
Half a mile along the main thoroughfare into town, Nicolas turned a sharp right and raced along another lane towards Greenfield Mansion.
The car screeched to a halt on the gravel drive alongside a huge stone statue of an old Victorian Earl sitting astride a trusty stallion.
Across the beautifully manicured front lawn, an old gardener stopped from his weeding and watched as Nicolas sprinted up the stone steps and rang a loud bell at the front door.
Moments passed before the door was opened by the butler.
“Good afternoon to you, Mr Sunnybank, how good to see you,” welcomed Bob.
“Is my son here?” exclaimed Nicolas, “I need to see him now!”
“I am sorry, I haven’t seen young Nathan around the house today,” answered the house servant, “And come to think of it, I haven’t seen Master Joe either.”
“Well, in that case, may I have a word with Felicity?” replied a now increasingly anxious Nicolas.
“Of course, Sir, please come in and step into the drawing room and I will see if her ladyship is free,” said the quite jovial butler.
Bob strode in the direction of the west wing and the kitchen.
Nicolas made his way into the drawing room and stood agitated next to the fireplace.
Above the marble mantle was a dark rectangular shadow against the lighter green wallpaper, where a portrait had once hung.
“Thank God, Felicity has at last got rid of that awful painting of Lord I Like It Better Somewhere Else,” thought Nicolas.
He glanced at the two stags heads mounted on the wall either side of the fireplace, and winced.
“Barbarous!” he fumed.
He wandered over to the leather Chesterfield sofa and picked up a copy of the latest Horse and Hound magazine.
“What world do these people live in?” Nicolas asked himself.
But before he had time to espouse another poke at the direction of the British aristocracy, the door opened and in walked a smiling Bob.
“I am terribly sorry, but her ladyship has gone to do a spot of painting in the meadows… she will be back for tea at 4pm,” he volunteered.
“But, but, but,” stammered Nicolas, “This is really urgent, I really must see Felicity now, or better still my son or hers!”
The butler bowed slightly, and said “I will see what I can do.
“Would you care for a cup of tea or maybe something a bit stronger?”

Some 33 miles away, two excited boys were making their way up a steep hill beside Shrewsbury railway station and passed with some anxiety the huge gates to the town’s Victorian prison.
A gaggle of visitors stood on a ramp of steps next to a dark door, waiting in the sunshine to be allowed in to see their nearest and dearest.
High prison walls dominated the pavement and the surrounding houses as the boys hurried past.
“It’s along here,” encouraged Nathan, and the two friends broke into a run to get as far away from the prison gates as they could and as quickly as they could.
While the prison perimeter walls still towered overhead the road became more tree-lined and leafy and the feeling of anxiety gave way to the more familiar feeling of adventure.
The sun shone through the trees and dappled the pavement.
After what seemed to be 20 minutes of walking, Nathan stopped and grabbed Joe’s hand.
“What’s up?” asked Joe.
“This is it!” said Nathan.
“What?” Joe asked again.
“The road where TJ lives,” his smaller friend replied.
A sign next to them betrayed the words: Severn Avenue.
“It is number 24, somewhere up here on the left,” Nathan urged.
The boys walked past a busy pub, where the sound of some 1970’s pop song mingled with laughter and the smell of beer.
After a few more gardens, they stopped.
Joe was the first to exclaim: “Number 24!”
“Right, let me do the talking cos I have met her housemate before,” said Nathan.
His finger pressed the front door buzzer.
A minute passed before a tired looking dark haired girl in her early 20s opened the door and peered nervously onto the doorstep.
“Sorry, we don’t need our car washed,” she snapped, “Cos we don’t have a car, now naff off, and don’t ring again!”
She was about to slam the door in the boys’ faces, but Nathan acted quickly and thrust his foot into the door jam.
“Amy!” he shouted, “It’s me, Nathan, TJ’s brother!”
The girl’s mouth dropped open in shock.
“Oh my God,” she gasped. “Come in, come in quick and now!”
Half dragging the two boys over the thresh-hold she slammed the front door behind them.
She hugged Nathan tightly to her stomach and almost involuntarily kissed his head.
Tears welled in her eyes as she cuddled him even tighter.
“Ouch!” exclaimed Nathan, “I can’t breathe.”
“Sorry,” replied Amy, loosening her arms, “But it is so really good to see you.”
Leading them into the end of terrace building, Amy pointed towards an old green sofa in the front room.
“Sit, down, sit down,” she almost stuttered.
Nathan and Joe sat down together and began the difficult task of explaining to Amy why they were there.
And Amy had an even more difficult time telling the two young boys things she had kept to herself for four long weeks.
Outside, the two intensely curious brown eyes were watching the house from the pavement on the other side of the road.
Two piercing green eyes glinted from behind a large laurel bush in a neighbouring garden.
And further away at the end of the avenue two sinister grey eyes also watched the front door of Number 24, from the sanctity of a polished black BMW car.