The Adventures of Nathan Sunnybank and Joe Greenfield
Book 1: Poison
NATHAN stirred under the duvet and blinked his sleepy eyes. The late July sun was burning into the blinds of his bedroom window, whispering that it was almost midday.
The boy stirred again and he peered out into the golden glow of the room. He knew he should be up by now… but last night had been very late – past midnight even – he was so tired, and, after all, Dad said there was no rush today.
“No rush,” he asked himself. “Why?”
The reason slowly dawned… it was the first day of the summer holidays.
“Yep,” he thought. “Six whole weeks and no school!”
Life couldn’t get any better.
Or could it?
Nathan stirred for a third time and as he crawled out of bed, he remembered something far more important… the quest that he and his best friend Joe had vowed to undertake.
A quest that could take the whole six weeks of the holidays… and that was a little frightening.
A mile away at Greenfield Mansion, Joe was humming to himself in quiet contentment.
He had just locked his sister Clara in the horse stable store and was now stroking his brother’s venomous Green Tree Viper Sid, while contemplating other plans for Clara.
In the distance, he could hear her cries of “Let me out, let me out, let me out, you little ……”
But Joe could not hear her last word, he was too proud of how he had lured his horrible sister into the storehouse and then persuaded her to find the lost set of car keys he had secreted on the back shelf, while he triumphantly turned and locked the door.
“Well, that’s her out of the way till tea-time,” he thought.
Joe’s pet wolf Blue licked his hand, while paying an unhealthy interest in the viper.
The boy toe-poked Blue away and began to milk the venom from the snake into the finger of a rubber glove.
He sat and watched the yellow fluid drip dangerously into the small jar he had rested on the patio table.
“That should be enough,” he thought.
He trusted that his older brother Sam – Glenwing University’s leading expert on poisonous reptiles – would not notice that his prized snake was now completely dry.
But Sam being Sam, Joe was sure he would understand, even if he had taken more venom than should.
Joe now carefully carried the viper into his brother’s reptile sanctum beyond the stables and returned it to its aquarium.
Momentarily, he looked at the large King Brown snake in the corner cabinet and thought of Clara again, but his conscience knew better and he went back outside.
Joe smiled and relaxed his shoulders. His musings turned to Nathan and their dangerous quest.
He laughed out loud in contemplation and stopped to listen to whether his sister was still calling out.
But all was silent.
In the kitchen, Lady Greenfield was yelling at the scullery maid.
“More bleach! More bleach… these Belfast sinks need more bleach, they are a disgrace!”
The maid stopped sweeping the dog hairs from the quarry-tiled floor and muttered: “Yes Felicity… I mean ma’am, I will do it right away!”
Then she muttered more quietly: “Blinking bleach and dogs, I really don’t need this job… thank God that blinking wolf isn’t allowed indoors!”
Lady Greenfield sipped ice chilled champagne from a cut glass flute, her freckled face smiled with contentment as she carried on potting up her geraniums.
“I love clean sinks,” she thought to herself, “almost as much as morning champers!”
The maid hurried to the scullery cupboard to open another case of Domestic Quick Action bleach, as Joe slipped past the two adults and into the west wing hallway.
Once there, he tiptoed up the back staircase to his bedroom.
In the corner of the room, next to his drum kit, was the khaki canvas shoulder bag he had packed the night before.
He carefully slipped the jar of snake venom into a side pocket of the bag, stashed a bag of jelly beans into another pocket along with his favourite high powered torch.
“Now I must get over and see Nathan,” he thought.
The next bit was going to be tricky.
Back at Landfill Cottage, Nathan was also preparing for the quest ahead.
He too had packed a small canvas holdall and was adding some essentials: a box of chocolate fingers, his grandfather’s old war-time combat knife, two carefully folded maps and the old mobile phone his sister had given him.
He walked over to his bedside table and quietly dragged it away from the wall.
Nathan stooped low and rolled back the edge of the carpet and from under the green rug took a large brown envelope.
He replaced the carpet and table and sat on his bed with the envelope on his lap.
But a sudden panic overtook his next action and he rushed to his bedroom door and crept onto the landing.
He lay by the stairwell banisters and peered downstairs.
The coast was clear.
Nathan returned to his bed and opened the envelope.
He counted the £20 notes inside… exactly 18 of them.
“£360 should be enough,” he thought, “Just hope we get everything finished before dad realises I sold my X Box and his old electric guitar on Ebay!” he chuckled nervously.
He stuffed the wad of banknotes into his jeans back pocket and slipped his hand into the envelope to pull out a small, but clear, photograph and a handwritten note.
He looked at the photo carefully.
“Oh TJ,” he whispered, “I do hope we find you and make you better.”
The face in the photo was of a 20-something-year-old girl with a broad smile, blue eyes and long blonde hair. She was cuddling a baby orang-utan and the background of the picture betrayed a tropical jungle.
Nathan brushed back his own blonde hair from his forehead and small tears welled in his blue eyes.
Everything gathered, he slipped on a light waterproof jacket and with the canvas bag under his left arm, crept downstairs.
He stopped in the hallway of the cottage for a moment and peeked through the crack of the old study door.
Sitting at the desk, his father was hunched over, writing more chapters of his new book and vaguely staring at two separate photos on his desk.
“In another world,” thought Nathan, as he made his way to the back door.
“Sorry, Dad, but you will understand one day,” he said quietly.
He left a scrawled note on the conservatory table, walked out into the sunshine and made his way across the neighbouring field in the direction of Greenfield Mansion.
Joe’s escape was fraught with more difficulty and danger than his friend.
First, he realised that the back doors were patrolled by his mother and the scullery maid, Joy.
The dogs would surely bark if he exited through the veranda, and Bob the butler, and Helen Wills, the cook – both about their daily duties – blocked the other outside doors.
So, bag over shoulder, Joe clambered out of the sash window of his bedroom and, perched between a black drainpipe and an ancient Virginia Creeper, he began his descent.
Halfway down, he glanced into the distance beyond the coppice and garden wall and could just make out Nathan ambling over the hill.
Joe let himself fall to the ground and sprinted for the cover of the herbaceous border and the trees beyond.
He was safe and now the quest could begin.
But a short distance away, from behind rusty wrought iron railings of an old air-raid shelter, a pair of angry brown eyes watched his every move.