Tortured Blues

And now that it is over

He could sit and count the cost

Wondering if she’d changed at all

And realised what they had lost

He was standing in the driving rain

Water filling up his shoe

She was lying on a snow white bed

Hair and face were all askew

Tortured by the blues

He found shelter in a small café

Writing hymns and poems on the wall

She slipped close by and cursed at him

They were both heading for a fall

Outside the booths were filling up

Minstrels and waiters in the queue

He stopped right there and filled his cup

The last romantic of the few

Tortured by the blues

Another year had passed by slow

His young face was lined with pain

She lay wrecked in a juniper bed

They both had to start out again

But all the while he was alone

Clinging to an old church pew

Women came and lovers went

The howling wind it ripped right through

Tortured by the blues

The 08.49

Sparkling Eyes

Framed

With smiles

Open heart

Pounding

Humour

You came from

Nowhere

Hanging on a

Rumour

But the more

I looked

The less

I saw

Until you

Opened

Your door

Clattering out the engine shed

Nattering down the line

Words tumble outwards

On the 08.49

Spinning words

Edged

With tears

Heavy heart

Pounding

Fears

But children

Sustain

Laughing in the

Rain

And the less

I looked

The more

I saw

Once you

Opened

Your door

Clattering out the engine shed

Nattering down the line

Words tumble outwards

On the 08.49

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.

Poison Chapter 3

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

BACK at Greenfield Mansion, Lady Felicity was nibbling on some sushi and celery while engaging Joy in meaningless chatter about the weather and garden ornaments.
“Do you think it is too early for another quaff of champers, Joy?” she asked.
Joy looked at her ladyship carefully and smiled.
“I think perhaps it might be better to wait until this evening for another glass, Felicity,” she replied.
Joy was always very careful when to address her ladyship by her proper name, and now seemed a quiet and good moment.
“Yes, I do feel a bit squiffy,” said Felicity and munched another langoustine while gazing wistfully at her newly potted geraniums.
Joy looked at the wine chiller and thought for the umpteenth time that her ladyship had not been the same since the day of his lordship’s accident.
The accident – as they had all learned to call it – was now five years ago, but it had had a profound effect on all of them, and Felicity most of all.
Her ladyship blamed herself constantly for it.
But after all, she had always warned his lordship to check his shotguns were not loaded before he cleaned them.
And it was in such innocence on that autumn day that she wandered into his study and asked him to pull the curtains before he retired to bed.
The word “pull” was so unfortunate.
By the time the ambulance got Lord Greenfield to the hospital, there was little they could do to save his left foot.
He was hospitalised for over a month and endured many more months of painful physiotherapy, before an artificial prosthetic foot was fitted.
He hated it and his tempers became more furious as the weeks and months passed.
He seemed to blame his wife for it all.
“Why the heck did you shout ‘pull’?” he often screamed.
And it was at this time that Lady Felicity started to lose herself in the kitchen and long chats with Joy.
It could not go on, and the final straw came sometime the following spring when a hobbling Lord Greenfield disappeared forever.
He said he needed to search for something, but did not know what, and as far as the family was concerned, he was still searching.

Felicity suddenly seemed to perk up.
“I know,” she said, “I think I will do a little painting, the weather is rather lovely.”
And without even a glance in Joy’s direction, she breezed out of the scullery door and into the garden.
As she passed the stable block, she thought momentarily about giving the horses an extra feed, but decided to venture forth and paint instead.
“I wonder what Joe and Clara are up to,” she mused quietly to herself.
Then she remembered that Clara was going to drive into town for more cello lessons with that rather strapping boy Tony, whom she had met at university.
“Funny,” thought Felicity, “I never knew Clara was even musical, until she met Tony.”
And she guessed that Joe would be playing with his friend Nathan at his small but rather quaint, Landfill Cottage.
So Felicity wandered into her studio at the end of the herb garden, gathered some paints, brushes, a bottle of water, paper and easel and somehow balancing all the items under her arms, set off towards the fields.
She had something of a spring in her step as she tripped through the long grass towards a knoll by the coppice on the western meadows.
At a suitable point Felicity stopped and sat cross-legged on the grass to view the landscape she had longed to paint.
Her decision to turn her artistic skills to landscapes was, she hoped, a pivotal point in her so-far frustrated artistic career.
As she assembled her brushes in a plastic pot and poured a little water into another, she noticed something small, bright and red in among the grass.
“Oh blimey, a jelly bean!” she laughed. “I wonder how that got there?”
She bent forward to put on her painting specs and noticed something far more significant and curious.
Glinting brightly against the sun in the longer grass was something large and metallic.
Again she leaned forward and started in puzzlement as she picked up a long high powered torch.
“Joe’s best torch!” she exclaimed.
“Whatever has my little Joe been doing out here in a field with a torch?”
Felicity thought for a moment and decided to quiz her son about her discovery at tea time.
She sat back and began to sketch the view across to Gresburton Station with a fine brush.

Less than one mile away at Landfill Cottage, Nicolas Sunnybank was putting the finishing touches to chapter 12 of his new romantic novel, which he had lovingly given a working title of Reasons to Be Cheerful.
For Nicolas, writing romantic novels was as close to love as he believed he would ever get, after his former wife Elizabeth left the family home to pursue her weird passion in witchcraft some four years earlier.
“Need another cup of tea,” he thought, as he stretched his legs and blinked at the sun now shining through the south window.
He ambled lazily into the kitchen and switched on the kettle.
“Wonder what Nathan is up to?” he thought.
“He’s been mighty quiet this morning. Bet he is over at Joe’s, playing.”
With that, the kettle made a whistling sound and Nicolas grabbed a mug and tea bag and poured himself a cup of Darjeeling.
Mug in hand he walked out into the conservatory, looked at his bedraggled tomato plants, glanced absently at a crumpled piece of notepaper on the table and carried on, into the garden.
Once outside Nicolas sat on a veranda chair, brushed his mop of greying hair back with his right hand, and mentally began a minor battle over whether to mow the lawn or plan the next chapter of his new book.
The tea tasted good and the sun was warm and burned his faded grey jeans.
Mulling over the choice of lawn or book, the frustrated author – and equally frustrated musician – decided that he needed another option for what ought to have been lunchtime.
“I really could do with looking for new Fender Strat,” he thought. “Really regret giving my old one to Bess.
“Yep,” he mused. “Let’s have a browse on Ebay… not enjoyed that guilty pleasure for a very long time.”
And with that thought fixed firmly in his head, Nicolas stood up and ambled back into the house.
In his study, he switched on his old PC and waited for the laboriously long satellite broadband connection to hook in.
Once online he quickly found his internet auction favourite and logged in, using his name and well-worn password Romance.
“Wow, eight Ebay messages for me,” he exclaimed, almost out loud.
The first two messages were the usual Ebay customer notices, which he rarely, if ever, read.
But the third one intrigued him.
“Congratulations, you have successfully sold item E2378910. The winning bidder will pay you £98 by Paypal transfer”.
“What is this? Must be spam,” thought Nicolas instantly.
But the reality clicked in and he decided that any hacker would need a hell of a lot of information to get into his Ebay account and sell items for him.
The next message told him that item E2378910 was an Xbox game station and the winning bidder from Colchester had already transferred the cash into his Paypal account.
The fifth message was equally stunning: “Congratulations, you have successfully sold item E2379321. The winning bidder will pay you £325 by Paypal transfer”.
The sixth message told him that item E2379321 was a Lake Placid Blue Fender Telecaster guitar and the winning bidder from Bolton had transferred the cash into his Paypal account.
Nicolas froze and swallowed deeply.
He leapt from the desk chair and ran upstairs to the spare bedroom.
In the corner of the room, where his Lake Placid Blue Fender Telecaster had always stood, was a dusty empty space.
A lump developed in his throat as he turned across the landing into Nathan’s bedroom.
Crumpled clothes, some Warhammer figures, a plethora of books and old Playstation games littered the floor.
But under the old TV set, a box sized space with a circle of dust around filled the gap where his son’s new X-Box had been.
Nicolas’s mind went into overdrive.
“Nathan, Nathan!” he yelled in fury and confusion.
The usually languid author ran downstairs, back to his study.
He again sat at the PC, logged out of Ebay and into his Paypal account.
Quickly he chose ‘Recent Transactions’ and stared in shock as he read the credit entries of £98 and £325, totalling £423, less Paypal charges it left a balance of £411.
But there underneath, just three days ago was a debit transfer of exactly £400 to a Halifax Building Society account. The account number was imprinted on Nicolas’s brain… it was Nathan’s account.
“Nathan, Nathan!” yelled Nicolas again, now adding franticness to his increasing anger.
“Just wait till I get my hands on you!”

More than 30 miles away the 326 train from Gresburton was pulling into Shrewsbury station.
Two excited, but quite nervous boys were about to begin stage two of their adventure.
The eyes still watched.

Poison Chapter 2

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

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.”
Nathan smiled.
“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.