The Moon Stealers and the Quest for the Silver Bough

The Yorkshire town of Parsley Bottom has a problem…

Peter Crisp, a boy with an unusual gift of being able to see things that others cannot, goes missing after spending the night in a graveyard. Two of Peter's school friends, join forces with a Knight of King Arthur to attempt to find him but come across some mysterious engravings which propel them on an adventure beyond their imagination.

Meanwhile MI6 operative Steven Knight is sent from London to investigate a meteor landing site, but Steven is advised by his own boss not to trust the puppeteers that hold the strings to his investigation. Within the core of the meteor is an alien bacteria that evolves at an alarming rate that not only puts Steven's life at risk, but the entire human race.

By unravelling ancient codes and riddles the children journey within the bowels of Edinburgh Castle as they attempt to find the key to Peter’s disappearance. The children not only need to save Peter, they need to save the world while they’re at

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3. A Call to Duty

Joe Allen lay awake on top of his second-hand mattress that sagged slightly in the middle, looking up at the ceiling. There had been an early morning knock on the front door to their small two bedroomed terrace house that had woken him up. He had heard his dad’s tired feet making their way down the stairs to answer and now he could hear the deep voices of two men talking from the kitchen below. Joe turned and looked at his alarm clock, wondering whether to get up or not, but decided to stay where he was for a bit longer, despite the springs in the mattress digging into his back. He then heard movement from the room next to his; his grandmother must have heard the door knocking too. He listened to the creaking of the floorboards as she slowly shuffled herself down the stairs, followed by the sound of water filling a kettle and the clatter of mugs. If his gran was up, then he may as well go downstairs too.

At the kitchen table he saw his dad talking to a round bellied man with long bushy sideburns that continued down both cheeks.

 ‘Good morning, Joe,’ said the other man with a look of sympathy in his eyes. Joe had noticed that a lot with people since his mother had died, almost like they were expecting him to burst into tears at any time, but it had been six years and he preferred to cry on his own, although that was getting less and less as time went on.

‘Morning, Mr Blundy,’ said Joe politely. Gregg Blundy was the desk clerk at the local police station where Joe’s dad also worked. Instinctively, Joe went to the kitchen cupboard, took a bowl out and began filling it from a cereal box whilst trying to listen to the men’s conversation without it looking too obvious.

Joe’s gran placed a mug of tea on top of the note-pad on the table for each of the men and affectionately placed a hand on her son’s shoulder.

‘So what time did he leave?’, asked Sergeant Allen to the other man. He moved his cup of tea off the pad of paper and put it on top of a newspaper instead, freeing the paper to write on. He picked up a pen ready to make notes.

‘His mother said that he left around about eight o’clock last night. He told her that he had arranged to stay at a friend’s house. She watched him go out of the door and said she saw his reflection go past the front window as if he was heading into town.’

‘And she didn’t check with the friend first?’

‘As it was the start of the holidays, she wasn’t worried about him staying over someone elses house. She said that she was just glad that Peter had made friends. It wasn’t until this morning that she rang the friend’s house to see what time he was coming home and apparently he hadn’t been there at all.’

‘What about other friends? Has she rung around them?’

‘Sounds like he didn’t really have many friends. Never had anyone over for tea. Used to prefer sitting on his own amongst the long grass of the field behind his house for hours drawing small creatures in his sketchbook. Sounds like a bit of a loner really.’

Sergeant Philip Allen looked out of the kitchen window. It was rare for him to be able to experience the beauty of the orange and pink clouds of a morning sunrise. Although it was early, there was something very beautiful and peaceful about the world at this time of the day; even the two birds tweeting excitedly to each other outside the window seemed to agree. But Sergeant Allen knew that it would not last for long and from what he was hearing it seemed that it was not likely to be a good day. It was unusual for anything to happen in Parsley Bottom, except for the odd car accident or minor disturbance, but a missing child was definitely unusual.

‘Is there anything missing from his room?’, he asked his clerk.

‘She’s had a look and the only things that are missing are some bedding and his teddy bear. She said he had a small bag with him when he left.’

‘So he definitely intended going somewhere for the night,’ replied Sergeant Allen.

Joe noticed that his gran had already started to make some sandwiches for his dad, knowing that he would be going into work shortly.

‘There is nothing else missing that she can tell: no money or photographs. He had some birthday money stuffed inside an old pottery money box which doesn’t appear to have been touched. Also his sketchpad is still in his room,’ added PC Blundy.

Sergeant Allen lifted the cup of tea to his lips and took a small sip as he listened once again, wincing as the hot water stung his lip. Despite the burn, it felt good feeling the warm liquid dribbling down inside his throat, heating up his stomach.

He chewed the end of the pen as he thought about the information he had already been given and what answers were still needed. Joe brought his bowl over and sat down at the table next to his dad. He purposely munched his cereal slowly so that he could still hear the conversation despite the crunching echoing in his ears.

‘And she’s checked the loft and shed to make sure he’s not hidden in there?’

‘She’s checked every place she can think of.’

‘Are there any other family members he could have stayed with?’ They were obvious questions but from what he had read in other missing person reports, children didn’t usually go very far from what they were familiar with.

‘His dad’s away working in the North Sea. He’s a welder on the rigs so only comes home every few months. The only other family member is an elderly grandmother and she lives in a nursing home.’

‘Had he been acting normally recently? Did he mention anyone new that he’d met?’

‘No, but she did mention something a bit strange. She says that she has always felt like they were being watched. I don’t know how much of this is in her imagination but apparently, when they had lived in Liverpool, there had often been an elderly man hanging around wherever they went. But when they moved to Parsley Bottom three years ago to care for her mother, she says she still sees the man everywhere only now he has a pointed white beard. But she’s sure it’s the same person.’

‘Might be worth checking it out. Send PC Lloyd round to talk to Mrs Crisp and get a detailed statement as well as a recent photograph of her son. We need some background information; was he having any problems at school that she knew of? Was he happy? Check social services records as well as police records from Liverpool, make sure it’s been a happy household and there have been no other reported problems.’

‘Will do.’

He took another sip of tea, giving himself time to think of anything else.

‘Are there any security cameras near their address? Send someone to ask the local businesses if we can look at their recordings from last night, maybe we can find out which way he headed.’

‘Shall I start to organise a search yet?’

‘No, let’s wait until we find out more before we start an official search. Chances are he’s run away, got scared over night and will turn up soon. Let me go and get dressed then we’ll go down to the station.’

Sergeant Allen pushed his chair backwards, scraping the legs against the bare floorboards and let out a loud sigh as he climbed the stairs back to the room he shared with his son.

‘What have you got planned for the school break Joe?’, asked PC Blundy, trying to make conversation while he waited.

‘Nothing yet,’ replied Joe. ‘Was that Peter Crisp’s mum you were talking about?’

‘Yes, do you know him?’

‘Peter’s in my class at school,’ answered Joe in between spoons of cereal. ‘What’s happened to him?’

‘He’s gone missing. What’s he like at school?’

‘Well, he doesn’t really have that many friends, if that’s what you mean, but he seems ok. Never got into any trouble,’ replied Joe.

‘I think we’ve got a picture of him somewhere,’ said Mrs Allen. She went through a doorway into the lounge where she kept Joe’s school photographs propped up on the mantelpiece and took a cardboard backed photograph from the top of the mantelpiece and brought it back into the kitchen. She placed it on the table in front of Joe and PC Blundy.

‘That’s him there isn’t it Joe?’, she asked, pointing a bony finger at a boy standing at the back of the photograph alongside the other tall members of his class. He had an unwashed appearance to his face and thick, untidy brown hair that flopped over his glasses. Whilst all the other faces looked down the camera lens with a smile and youthful confidence, Peter appeared to stand slightly separate from the rest of the class, a distance in his eyes like he knew a secret that no one else could guess. Joe nodded as he scraped the spoon around the bottom of his cereal bowl scooping up what remained of the milk from his breakfast.

‘May I borrow this?’, asked PC Blundy.

‘As long as we get it back,’ replied the elderly woman with a knowing smile on her lips.

As soon as he was allowed to leave the house, Joe grabbed his jacket, got on his bike and cycled over to his best friends’ house. He took the bike around the outside of the house and knocked on the back door.

Max’s mum, who could always be found in the utility room sorting out the clean and dirty clothes for Max and his four older sisters, opened the door almost immediately and greeted Joe with a warm and friendly smile.

‘Morning, Joe, you’re out and about early,’ she said.

‘Morning, Mrs Scott,’ replied Joe as he kicked his shoes off at the door and rushed past her. He always felt welcome at Max’s house and one more person in a house of seven didn’t really make much difference to Mrs Scott, who was always pleased to see him.

He leapt up the staircase two at a time towards his friend’s bedroom, knocked once and walked straight in. A blond haired boy was sat at a desk with a thick text book open in front of him, an even heavier book resting on the pages to keep it open at the right page.

‘Hi, Joe,’ greeted Max as he looked up from the text book, ‘I thought I’d make a start on the maths homework.’

 ‘Max, it’s the first day of the holiday, why have you started your homework already?’

‘I don’t think I’ve got these percentages right,’ he said ignoring Joe’s question.

Max’s room was always tidy and organised. His desk had everything neatly arranged in square piles. Pens were colour coded and arranged by height and were lined up perfectly straight at the side of the desk. His books were lined up in the same way on his shelf and his duvet had been neatly tucked in around his mattress.

Joe carefully closed the bedroom door behind him then sank into the beanbag next to the desk.

'Are you alright?', asked Max looking strangely at his friend, noticing the look of excitement on Joe’s face.

‘Peter Crisp has gone missing! His mum contacted my dad and he’s gone down to the police station to start to look for him,’ said Joe in an excited but quiet voice so that no one else could hear him.

Max shook his head.

‘No, he’s down at the church graveyard,’ said Max unimpressed. ‘I heard him talking to Jimmy Cox at school yesterday. Everyone knows how Peter wants to fit in so Jimmy dared him to stay there the night.’

‘Oh,’ Joe’s excitement ended pretty quickly. ‘Well, he's going to be in big trouble when his mum finds him.’

‘Maybe we should tell your dad.’

‘Why don’t we go over to the graveyard and see if he’s still there? We could at least warn him that his mum’s looking for him so he can think up some excuse.'

'I suppose so,' said Max unconvinced.

Joe stood up and closed Max’s text book for him, leaving his pencil in the central fold as a marker for later, then started heading out of the house through the utility room. Max had no option but to follow, shouting goodbye to his mum, who had now started on the ironing.

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