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.

I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now

Ted Heath 2MY first proper interview could not have been with a more eminent British statesman.

It is January 1977, I am 20 years old, and to my lasting embarrassment I am vice chairman of our university society: the Federation of Conservative students. I can only blame my position on political naivety and the right wing doctrines of my late father. Thankfully, my Tory years are brief!

Anyway I will cut to the chase…

The evening before this encounter I am part of a small group of third year students attending a new book signing function in Leeds. The guest of honour is the author and recently defeated Conservative Party leader and former Prime Minister, Edward Heath.

During the evening, two girls in our group share a drink, some jokes and a lengthy chat with Mr Heath’s personal assistant and his Special Branch bodyguard. Bearing in mind this is at the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland, Mr Heath’s protective partners are amazingly lax in attitude and seem almost too friendly.

But nothing can surpass the surprise as we leave when the Special Branch detective smiles and says: “See you tomorrow then.”

The 20 mile journey home on a number 75 bus answers the obvious question I need to ask.

Our two female companions had persuaded Mr Heath and his police protection to join us for drinks the following day at the university union!

And to top it all, we will get to interview him on his three favourite subjects: music, sailing and politics – in time to publish in the next edition of our society newsletter.

A heady mix of nerves and excitement mean I do not sleep much that night.

The next morning, I organise the logistics for the meeting with my Tory cohorts and officers from the student union.

We set up three students to ask questions and arrange with the Special Branch officer to sneak Mr Heath up a back staircase into the union president’s office and avoid any verbal flak from fellow undergrads.

I also arrange for a bottle of Mr Heath’s favourite malt whisky to be on hand to help lubricate the interview and settle our nerves.

At about 2pm, an ebullient former Prime Minister arrives accompanied by his Special Branch officer and the personal assistant from the previous evening.

Mr H has a quiet air of someone who has held the highest political office and is smartly groomed in his green and grey Saville Row wool worsted suit.

We gather together in the small but tidy office: Mr Heath, his PA and the Special Branch agent and four nervous students.

We take it in turns to socialise and ask questions and I pour Mr Heath his first whisky, which he drinks quite speedily.

Two minutes suddenly become 15 minutes and it is my turn to ask the political questions.

At this point, with my prepared question about the Warnock Report on education reform, at hand I notice the former PM’s glass is empty.

“Would you like another whisky?” I ask, stalling for time.

“That would be very good,” comes the reply.

I smile and reach for the bottle of malt.

But disaster strikes.

I try to juggle my still full glass of whisky (a double measure), a notebook and pen, while taking Mr Heath’s glass from him.

It all goes horribly wrong.

I drop the notebook, struggle to catch the empty glass from Mr Heath’s hand while pouring the entire contents of my glass down his Saville Row suit.

There is a sharp intake of breath from all corners of the room.

I can feel my face reddening as I stutter an apology.

Mr Heath reaches for a white handkerchief and attempts to mop up the spilt whisky and dry his jacket.

One of our party offers some paper tissues,

I apologise once again, still shaking.

But a smile greets me… “It doesn’t matter… it was an accident,” he says.

The rest of the interview remains a blur, except for the fact I did manage to ask my Warnock Report question, but I can’t remember the reply!

I wait another eight years before daring to try and be a journalist again.