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