Poison: Chapter Nine

The Adventures of Nathan Sunnybank and Joe Greenfield

Book 1: Poison

Chapter Nine

NICOLAS pulled his car onto the now familiar gravel outside Greenfield Mansion. The moon played shadows on the steps to the front door as he and Felicity quickly made their way indoors. The lobby and drawing room lights were still burning and the house seemed unusually warm. Nicolas suddenly remembered that he had probably left his own back door open and his cottage would be far from warm.

“Blinkin’ goats!” he spouted involuntarily.

“Pardon?” exclaimed Felicity.

“Oh, nothing important,” answered Nicolas. “I have just remembered that I probably left my back door open and you can bet the goats will be in the kitchen or conservatory again… the blighters make such a mess if they get inside.”

Felicity smiled broadly and giggled to herself quietly. Nicolas’s cottage was a mess anyway, she thought.

“Look, I have an idea,” she said, brightening suddenly.

“Why don’t you pop home and sort out your goats and things, pack a bag and come back. I can get Bob to make up a bed for you in the West Wing and we can plan what to do next.

“Meanwhile I will telephone the police station,” she added.

“Sounds like a plan,” said Nicolas. “And a good one too… I won’t be long,” he added. He made his way back towards the front door, the stopped and turned towards Felicity.

“Oh, the registration plate on Tony’s Porsche is T04Y WWD,” he said.

“Crikey, that was observant of you,” Felicity replied, blowing an air kiss in his direction.

Nicolas blushed and waved as he hurried outside.

Back at Severn Avenue, all hell had broken loose.

In what seemed to be a co-ordinated simultaneous action the younger man, Rolf, tumbled forward down the stairs cracking his head hard on the bottom banister as he fell.

At that same moment a grey haired animal leapt from the open front door and sank its fangs into the right leg of the blonde haired man Klaus. The pain of the animal’s bite shot up his leg into his thigh and groin. He crumpled to one side, firing his silenced Walther revolver three times into the kitchen door. The wolf was upon him, now biting hard into his right wrist until the gun dropped onto the hallway carpet. Quick as a flash Nathan kicked out and sent the revolver spinning into the open living room.

Amy froze.

“Blue!” Joe yelled. “You beauty!”

“Blinkin’ heck,” gasped Nathan, “What is he doing here and what a life saver!”

The wolf was now standing astride a terrified Klaus, slavering onto his face.

The wolf made eye contact with Joe as the young boy ordered: “Hold… don’t kill!”

Nathan moved towards the body of Rolf, who lay just four feet away. The man’s swollen right hand gave away the secret. TJ’s bag and its contents lay scattered on the stairs, and in the half-light, Nathan examined where the pieces of fungi had fallen.

Nathan turned to Amy and Joe, who were now both on their feet.

Amy was shaking almost uncontrollably as Nathan ordered: “Don’t touch anything… this other guy is dead… but I think it was the fall that killed him and not the Grey Skull shrooms!”

Joe placed a hand on Amy’s arm and hugged her.

“Don’t touch that grey stuff on your stairs, Amy, they are poisonous,” he told her.

He turned to Nathan and added: “And you, matey, are a legend.”

Amy was slowly regaining her composure. She moved quickly and closed the front door. As she did so she noticed the lights in a number of houses opposite were switched on and she could see faces peering out of one upstairs window.

“Whaaaat is that?” she stammered pointing at Blue.

“Never seen a wolf before,” Joe grinned back at her. “He’s mine, he’s called Blue… but I’ll be blowed how he got here! Look, he will let you pet him,” he added, tousling Blue’s mane.

Under the wolf, the blond haired man’s face was almost white with fear as the animal’s dribble trickled around his chin and throat. Blood oozed from his leg and right wrist. His grey eyes blinked into the unflinching green eyes of his captor and guard.

“We need to ring the police now,” interrupted Amy urgently.

At Landfill Cottage, Nicolas’s VW pulled up outside the back door. He jumped out and ran into the conservatory. The door was still open, blowing back and forth in the gentle night time breeze. He reached for the light switch and in the electric glow he surveyed the devastation that two unattended goats could cause. Chewed wicker furniture, a broken mug, a ruined rug and half eaten tomato plants gave an indication what lay ahead.

“Oh dang it, blinkin’ goats,” Nicolas swore.

He turned on the kitchen lights and viewed the mess, which included a well gnawed pine chair and two decimated wooden door handles, while the entire contents of the veg rack and the kitchen waste bin were strewn everywhere.

Next to the kitchen range, two content goats slept soundly.

Nicolas moved quickly towards the animals. He poked the first goat with his foot and shouted: “Right you two… outside!”

The animals started, before obediently trotting out through the kitchen door and into the conservatory. Nicolas followed and watched as the younger of the two animals stopped to take a bite out of what was left of a tomato plant.

“No, Annie, get outside!” he shouted.

The goats broke into a run through the conservatory door and onto the veranda, leaving pebble-shaped involuntary mementoes of their stay as they ran.

Nicolas shut the door behind them and began the tiresome task of cleaning up the mess.

Two full black bin bags and a matted broom later, the kitchen was passable. He would need to clean it properly another time.

The conservatory was a different matter. The mess of chewed tomato plants, strewn compost and goat poo needed a shovel, a bucket, disinfectant and a mop.

Nicolas had just finished the cleaning and was thinking about selling the goats and packing an overnight bag when he noticed a piece of half chewed note paper on the floor by the left hand window. The paper betrayed his son’s neat handwriting and he could make out the words: “Love Nathan”. He bent down, picked up what remained of the note and began to read it.

A mile away in the lobby of Greenfield Mansion, her Ladyship was explaining to Bob about their pursuit of Master Anthony.

“I need to speak to his father,” she was saying, “He has as good as abducted my daughter. He is in real trouble when I catch up with him.”

“Yes Ma’am,” said Bob, yawning.

“Oh, Bob,” I am so very sorry,” gulped Lady Felicity. “It is well past your duty hours and your bedtime. Please get yourself to bed and thank you for everything you have done.” “Thank you Ma’am,” answered the butler, “But as long as you are sure there is nothing else I can do tonight.”

“Oh, just one small thing,” Lady Felicity remembered. “Do you mind turning back the bed and putting a radiator on in the Elizabeth Room in the West Wing… Mr Sunnybank may be staying tonight?”

“Not at all,” answered Bob as he trotted off towards the back staircase, grinning quietly to himself.

Felicity sat on the chaise longue next to the landline telephone in the lobby and prepared to give the local police station both barrels of her anger.

She breathed in deeply and was about to dial the station’s number when she noticed Clara’s pink mobile phone on the lobby table next to her.

“Blimey, I thought Master Anthony had taken that,” she exclaimed loudly.

She picked up the phone and for the first time since her daughter was fourteen decided to read her text messages.

“I know I shouldn’t but a mother must do what a mother must do,” she muttered.

Felicity quickly scanned the most recent text conversation and grew quickly agitated when she read the recent exchange between Clara and Tony.

The agitation turned to fear and anger when she then read Clara’s original text message.

“I am unsure who is going to feel my wrath first,” she fumed, “my darling daughter or that duplicitous boy!”

“But I am sure of one thing… the police need to know now!!

And she began to dial the police station number on her landline phone.

At Albert Avenue in Shrewsbury, a red Porsche Boxster pulled up under a leafy Rowan tree outside a terraced house advertising bed and breakfast. The car’s occupant glanced at the upstairs windows of the building and then at the packed holdall on the passenger seat.

“Phew, that was close getting away from Lady Felicity and that guy from the cottage,” Tony thought to himself. “I hope she doesn’t involve dad in all of this or there could be hell to pay. I just hope it is all worth it.”

He turned to his mobile phone and sent a short text to Clara.

Two streets away in a black BMW, a laptop computer was beeping for attention. Almost 140 miles further away, the caller’s steel grey eyes were growing agitated at the failure of his operatives to respond.

The last text message on his phone simply read: “We are moving on the girl now.”

But there had been no further contact for more than an hour.

In a room less than three miles from this location two blank eyes gazed towards the ceiling of a surgically clean painted room.

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.

Poison Chapter 5

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

IN the kitchen of 24 Severn Avenue, Amy was making baked beans on toast for her two unexpected visitors.
“Typical kids, thinking they can survive on chocolate fingers and jelly beans,” she mused.
Amy had known TJ since college and they had become best friends. But while Amy happily worked her time in the bar of a local restaurant, TJ enveloped her life in environmental action and saving endangered animals, such as the orang-utans in the picture that Nathan had shown her.
Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Rainbow Warriors and Wildlife Action, TJ had joined just about every environmental action group going. She was a real hero in Amy’s eyes.
“But,” thought Amy, “TJ made some nasty enemies.”
She buttered the toast and spooned the beans on top.
“How much should I tell them?” Amy wondered.
In the living room the two boys had the same thoughts about how much they needed to let TJ’s friend know.
“Tea-time!” yelled Amy, and she was soon joined in the small kitchen by two smiling young boys.
“Wash your hands first!” she ordered, “And if you eat all the beans, there is a surprise for pudding!”
After a hearty tea and a surprise of chocolate muffins and custard, the trio sat down in the front room to talk…. but only after Amy had drawn the curtains closed.
“Why have you shut the curtains?” asked Joe, “It’s sunny outside!”
“Just in case we are being watched,” answered Amy nervously.
They all looked nervously at each other.
Amy nodded and sipped at a cup of coffee.
Nathan began to tell what he knew of TJ’s disappearance and her mysterious life-threatening condition.
He pulled out a scribbled hand-written note, and explained he had received it in the post three weeks ago, along with the photo of TJ and the red ape.
He was relieved that on school days he usually got the post first or his dad might have asked some awkward questions.
But Nathan had not recognised the stamps on the envelope it came in. He told Amy it was “foreign” and the postmark bore the name Kuching.
The note told Nathan that his sister was seriously ill in hospital after being attacked while trying to save two baby orang-utans.
She was in a deep coma and only one thing could bring her out of the coma, and maybe then she could tell them all what happened.
The writer needed Joe to milk a small amount of venom from his brother’s Green Tree Viper – “he knows how to do it safely” said the note – and take the vial of venom to an address in London.
But the note went on to say that under no circumstances must either Nathan or Joe tell their parents, nor the police, or TJ could die.
“There are other people trying to find her first,” it added.
The note was signed by Joe’s brother Sam.
He had added a PS saying he would join them as soon as he could.
“Where’s the envelope now?” asked Amy.
“Sorry, I think I threw it in the kitchen bin,” answered Nathan.
Amy moved across to a small desk and switched on an old PC.
Once logged in she Googled the word Kuching.
“My God,” she exclaimed, “It is the capital of Sarawak in Borneo… that’s where orang-utans live…. TJ was always going on about wanting to go there.”
Amy froze and put her right hand to her forehead.
“Now something is beginning to make sense,” she muttered.
“What do you mean?” asked Joe.
Amy explained that she had received two strange mobile text messages from TJ a few weeks earlier, saying she was going on a potentially dangerous mission to help save some endangered animals.
She added that TJ and Sam had been “a bit of an item” for the past six months and were “almost inseparable”.
They said they were going abroad together for a short holiday.
Amy had suggested Tenerife, but TJ had winked and said: “No, someplace else.”
“Urgh gross!” exclaimed Joe, “Your sister and my brother… bet they’ve been snogging!”
“Yuk!” retorted Nathan, poking his tongue out.
“But,” said Amy, “There is something which is now worrying me a lot.”
She told the boys how, about a week ago, she had answered the door to a tall blonde haired man, with steely grey eyes and a deep tan, who said he was a friend of TJ’s and she had asked him to fetch a bag from her room.
“He was quite convincing and nice at first, but I wouldn’t let him in, because I saw another man watching us from a black car across the road, and something did not seem right,” said Amy.
“He became quite angry and told me if I knew what was good for me I would get the bag for him.
“I slammed the door in his face and watched him cross the road and get into the black car with the other man and drive away.
“He had a European accent,” she added suddenly, “Sort of German or maybe Austrian.”
By now Amy was shaking and started to cry.
“I have been really frightened and was going to ring the police, but later that day I got this phone call on my mobile telling me if I told anyone about the visit I would not see TJ again.”
Amy was now in floods of tears and between sobs muttered in frightened tones: “How did he know my mobile number?”
Nathan and Joe sidled up either side of her on the sofa and the three cuddled close.
“I haven’t left the house… but I have seen the car and the blonde haired man in the street every day since then.”
“But where is the bag?” asked Nathan.
Amy reached under the sofa and pulled out a small blue denim handbag.
“I think this is maybe it,” she said.

Back at Greenfield Mansion, Felicity was hurrying across the grass towards her studio with a flustered and red faced Bob beside her, carrying her easel and painting gear.
“It is unlike Nicolas to be so worried,” she said as she allowed Bob to put her painting things away while she tripped through the scullery door.
Ignoring Joy, who was ironing a pile of boy’s jeans and T shirts, Felicity walked towards the drawing room.
“Oh Nicolas, I am so sorry to have kept you waiting… whatever is it?” she asked.
Nicolas got up from the Chesterfield, smiled wanly and explained his afternoon discoveries.
“Oh my Lord!” responded Felicity.
“I have not seen Nathan at all today, and come to think of it, have not seen Joe since breakfast… and Bob says neither he, Helen nor Joy have seen him either.”
Nicolas held Felicity’s hand and quietly but purposefully said: “I think this maybe more serious than I first thought!”
The two parents looked worryingly into each other’s eyes.
Felicity blinked first.
At that moment Bob reappeared at the drawing room door.
“Ma’am, there is the young Mr Anthony Woodward to see you… he’s says it’s urgent,” said the butler.
Felicity and Nicolas turned as the strapping and dashingly handsome Tony Woodward strode into the room.
“Your ladyship,” he exclaimed, ignoring the presence of Nicolas.
“I am so sorry to bother you, but Clara did not turn up for her violin lesson this morning and I can’t get any reply to calls I have made to her mobile phone.”
“But,” said Lady Greenfield, “I thought she was having cello lessons?”
“Oh, sorry,” replied Tony, “I meant cello, just a slip of the tongue,” he lied, blushing.
There was a silence.
“Curiouser and curiouser,” said Lady Greenfield. “Follow me….”
Felicity, Nicolas, Tony and Bob the butler together hurried into the main hallway and up a flight of stairs to the first landing.
The first bedroom they visited was that of a small boy, littered with toys and computer games, with a large drum kit standing in the corner.
Felicity glanced around and exclaimed: “Well, the only things missing are my son’s GI Joe bag… and my son!
“And possibly this torch,” she added, holding the silvered flashlight in her left hand.
The four adults ventured across the landing to a much larger bedroom.
On the unmade bed was a Jack Wills clothing catalogue, an array of designer blouses and jeans and a small pink mobile phone flashing and making a pinging sound.
Tony picked up the phone and clicked it open.
“Blimey!” he started, and blushing red again added: “Didn’t realise I had sent her quite so many text messages and calls today!”
“So,” said Lady Greenfield, “We are now missing two young boys and my daughter Clara!”
“And I believe the wolf Blue,” interrupted Bob, “None of the staff have seen the animal since this morning!”

Some hours later at 24 Severn Avenue, Amy tucked Nathan and Joe into the double bed in TJ’s room.
The boys looked exhausted, but she was glad of their company.
She peered out through the bedroom curtains.
The pair of curious brown eyes had departed the street to a bed and breakfast nearby.
But two sinister grey eyes still watched the house from behind the steam of a Chinese takeaway in the front driver’s seat of the black BMW car.
And from under the laurel bush the piercing green eyes watched everything.